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Saturday, 15 February 2014

Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill

On Wednesday of this coming week (19th), the Scottish Parliament will consider, at Stage 3 (the final debate and vote) the Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill.  This is a Bill that, if enacted, would allow the appointment of a 'named person' for every child in Scotland, who would have powers that could be used to over-rule decisions made by the biological parents.  This is a matter of great concern to many, and the following is a copy of the e-mail that I have sent to my own MSPs.  I would encourage others to contact their MSPs as well.  Please feel free to use any of the information that is below, but do not simply copy and paste the e-mail.  It's not that I would be complaining about any breach of copyright (!), but simply that if a number of identical communications are received, then only one is considered!

"Dear [name]

As you are aware. I have been concentrating, recently, on other matters.  However, I am now obliged to turn my attention to The Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill and, in particular, Part 4.

It would seem to me, and to many others, that this section of the Bill, if enacted, has the potential to undermine parents and carers - particularly if the 'named person' were to disagree with the parents or carers over a matter concerning the up-bringing of the child.  Even as august a body as The Faculty of Advocates raises similar points regarding a violation of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. In their submission to the Education and Culture Committee they add that the Bill “dilutes the legal role of parents, whether or not there is any way that parents are fulfilling their statutory responsibilities. It undermines family autonomy.”

The Law Society in Scotland similarly notes that the proposals could potentially breach European Human Rights Law on privacy and family life, stating that, “there is scope for interference between the role of the ‘named person’ and the exercise of a parent’s rights and responsibilities.”

There is also the matter of data protection.  Under current legislation, information can be shared without parental consent only if there is a danger of “significant harm”, but the Bill, if enacted, would enable data to be passed on to a named person without permission if there is a perceived risk to a child’s “well-being” [26.3,4.(a)]. What constitutes “well-being” is, obviously, subjective and could lead to unnecessary investigations into a child’s personal life.  This could well have the, I would hope unintended consequence, of parents, in the case of an accident involving their child, being deterred from taking the child to a hospital, or even to their GP's surgery, because they were afraid that they would become embroiled in the care system.

No-one is going to pretend that there are not cases in which a child needs to have an adult, other than the biological parents, involved in its care.  Indeed, during the twelve years in which my wife and I fostered, the majority of the children for whom we cared would have been thus classified.  However, this is, thankfully, a small minority.  Do you really want to see parents who are perfectly adequately looking after their child(ren) have their position usurped by the State!

Just last month, prominent Human Rights lawyer Aidan O Neil QC said that it is “startling” that the proposal “appears to be predicated on the idea that the proper primary relationship that children will have for their well-being and development, nurturing and education is with the State rather than within their families and with their parents”.

I am also concerned about Part 7 of the Bill and the concept of "Corporate Parents" - especially given the vast array of persons who would come under that description, as outlined in Schedule 3.  Once again, it would seem to me, this is an attempt by the Scottish Government to undermine perfectly good and responsible natural parenting in a manner that is worthy of Plato's Republic!

I am asking, therefore, that you either oppose the Bill in its entirety, or that you support any amendment that would remove Part 4 and, even Part 7.
Yours sincerely,

For those in the Motherwell and Wishaw Constituency, the MSPs are:

Mr John Pentland, MSP

Mrs Clare Adamson, MSP
Mr Mark Griffin, MSP
Mr Richard Lyle, MSP
Mrs Margaret McCulloch, MSP
Miss Siobhan McMahon, MSP
Mrs Margaret Mitchell, MSP
Mr  John Wilson, MSP

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