Scottish Government scraps plans for Named Person’s Scheme

Ben Wray

John Swinney told the Scottish Parliament that he hoped the Scottish Government had “now solved the information sharing controversy at the hear of named persons”

  • Scottish Government announces that following a recommendation from an expert panel, it will now not go ahead with the Named Person scheme
  • Named Person Scheme initially scheduled for introduction in 2016, but had been postponed due to a Supreme Court decision that it was in breach of human rights laws
  • Education Secretary John Swinney said that with the introduction of GDPR and the Data Protection Act, it was possible to now proceed relying “on the law as it currently stands”
  • Scottish Labour Education spokesperson Iain Gray said “a good idea” had been “destroyed by incompetence”

EDUCATION SECRETARY John Swinney has told the Scottish Parliament the government will now not proceed with its Named Person’s Scheme, which would have seen every child in the country appointed a named person for child welfare purposes.

The scheme had been scheduled for introduction in 2016 before the Supreme Court ruled that parts of the information sharing aspect of the Bill were in breach of human rights laws.

In a statement in Holyrood today [19 September], Swinney said that the “controversy” was not about the policy of named person itself but about “when information should be shared by or with individuals”.

Since the Children and Young People Information Bill 2017 was passed “significant changes to the data protection and information landscape” had come in including “the introduction of GDPR and the new Data Protection Act 2018”, he said.

READ MORE: What is the ‘named person scheme’ and why are people worried about it?

Following the Supreme Court decision, Swinney established a panel of experts to look at how to establish a single statutory code of practice for information sharing. The panel’s final report, published on Thursday, found that to “achieve all aims set them in a single statutory code is not possible,” Swinney said.

The panel had found that “the world has moved on significantly since the Bill was drafted” and that it was now not necessary to introduce a statutory code of practise, but instead the government should “rely on the law as it currently stands founded on data protection act and GDPR”.

“We will not introduce a legal code, information sharing will only take place in line with the law as it currently stands,” Swinney emphasised.

“Instead of the code, the panel recommended we provide practical help, guidance and support to enable professionals, practitioners, children and families to understand their rights under the existing law. We are today recommending their expectations in full.”

READ MORE: Scottish Tory council has run ‘Named Person’ scheme for 5 years without problems

“In taking this approach, I hope and believe we have solved the information sharing controversy at the heart of named persons,” Swinney stated.

The Education Secretary confirmed that he would be writing to the presiding officer to withdraw the bill and that the Named Person scheme will now not happen, although “existing voluntary schemes” established across Scotland would continue. 

Responding, Liz Smith, Scottish Tory Education spokesperson, said that she did: “not believe any tears will be shed” for the Bill, that it was “one of the most deeply unpopular, illiberal and unworkable policies of our time” and called on Swinney to apologise for “the general upset caused” by its attempted introduction.

Labour’s Education spokesperson Iain Gray took a different tack, saying Named Person’s “was a good idea” but had been “destroyed by incompetence from a succession of ministers”.

“Good intentions do not alone make for good government, and this has been very poor government indeed,” he added, also calling on the Minister to apologise for “the mess made of this legislation”.

READ MORE: Catriona Grant: Why we should welcome state intervention for the sake of our kids

Swinney refused to apologise, pointing to the fact that the legislation was supported by the Scottish Parliament, including Labour. 

“We have done our level best to try to protect the legislation that parliament itself enacted,” he said.

In its ruling in 2016, the Supreme Court found that the aim of the legislation was “unquestionably legitimate and benign”, but that the information-sharing proposals were in breach of the European Convention of Human Rights on the right to privacy and a family life.

The Named Person – usually a teacher or health visitor – would have acted as a point of contact for children and their parents if they wanted advice or support, from birth until 18 years of age.

Picture courtesy of the Scottish Government