Scotland politics

Scottish Labour calls for named person 'pause'

silhouette of a family Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Campaigners fear the scheme will cause unnecessary intrusion into family life

Scottish Labour has called for a halt to Scotland's controversial named person scheme, despite backing the proposals in the Scottish Parliament.

A "named person" will be appointed to monitor the welfare of every child in Scotland in August.

The SNP, Labour and Liberal Democrats voted in favour of the Scottish government proposals in 2014, while the Conservatives abstained.

Labour has now claimed the policy is a mess and called for it to be "paused".

But the party said it still supported the "principle" behind the legislation.

The Conservatives, who have made opposition to named person a key focus of their Holyrood election campaign, accused Labour of a "screeching U-turn".

But the Liberal Democrats said they continued to offer "cautious support" to the named person policy.

The Scottish government has said the named person scheme - which is supported by most child protection charities and teaching unions - is intended to provide a single point of contact if a child or their parents want information or advice, or if they want to talk about any worries and seek support.

In the vast majority of cases, the named person will be a midwife, health visitor, head teacher, deputy head teacher or guidance teacher, depending on the age of the child.

The scheme will be introduced across the country in August following a pilot in the Highlands which was hailed as a "great success" by the Barnardo's charity.

But opponents of the policy are attempting to have it quashed by the law courts, and have claimed it amounts to a "Big Brother" scheme that will undermine parents, breach a family's right to privacy and divert resources away from children who are genuinely vulnerable.

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said a full review of the policy was now needed so that the concerns of parents could be addressed.

Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption In most cases, a child's named person will be their head teacher, deputy head teacher or guidance teacher

She said: "This entire process has been an absolute mess and it has caused a lot of anxiety for parents. Parents have lost confidence in the named person scheme.

"We support the principle behind this policy, which is that the children at risk of falling through the cracks get the support they need.

"But the introduction of the policy has been botched by the SNP - from the communication of this policy to parents to the way the legislation has been presented to parliament."

'Full review'

She said a Labour government would "pause the process and ask the Children's Commissioner to carry out a full review, so that the concerns of parents can be addressed".

Any improvements that were recommended would then be implemented, she added.

Image copyright PA
Image caption The named person legislation was passed by 103 votes to 0 by the Scottish Parliament, with the Conservatives abstaining

The named person scheme was introduced as part of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014, which was passed by 103 votes to 0, with the Conservatives abstaining.

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said her party had consistently opposed it, and had only abstained as it did not want to oppose other measures contained in the bill.

When asked if she would end the the named person legislation, Ms Davidson told the BBC's Good Morning Scotland: "Yes, it was in our manifesto for last year's election, it will be in our manifesto for this year's election."

Ms Davidson later said Labour had performed a "screeching U-turn" on the issue, and claimed the party "can't seem to find consistency on anything at the moment."

'Gushing quotes'

She added: "Only yesterday, they abandoned their ludicrous scheme to force the low-paid to queue up for a tax rebate, and now their leader has radically changed her mind on named person.

"You only have to look at the gushing quotes from Labour less than four months ago praising the named person scheme in the Scottish Parliament.

"Kezia Dugdale herself even said there was 'ignorance' surrounding many of the objections. But now she's decided it was a mess from the start."

A spokesman for the SNP said Ms Dugdale and Ms Davidson were guilty of "blatant opportunism" and a "shameful attempt to play politics with an issue which at its heart is about child safety."

He added: "This policy is aimed at protecting children's wellbeing and is about supporting, not diminishing, the role of parents.

"It is widely supported by leading children's charities and welfare organisations, as well as by the Scottish Police Federation who say it will 'help keep children safer', and has also been upheld by the highest court in Scotland, including a ruling which said the policy had 'no effect whatsoever on the legal, moral or social relationships within the family'."

Speaking on a visit to Canine Concern Scotland in Edinburgh, Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie said named person should be monitored to ensure it was being implemented properly.

He added: "We need to remember that we trust social workers and teachers with the care of our children every day.

"They're not suddenly going to turn into monsters as a result of this legislation. But we do need to make sure that councils don't over stretch, don't overreach, don't use the powers too much."