Named Person scheme delayed for court judgement

Deputy First Minister John Swinney.
Deputy First Minister John Swinney.

The Scottish Government’s controversial “named person” guardianship scheme has been put on ice pending a court judgement.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney has clarified the situation to parliament in light of uncertainty about a Supreme Court decision.

The heavily criticised SNP policy, which many people have condemned as “snooping” on family life, could ultimately be declared unlawful.

It is set to be enacted under the Children and Young People Act on August 31.

If it happens, a “named person” will be appointed for each child in Scotland, from birth to their 18th birthday – and beyond if they remain in school.

They will be a health visitor for pre-school children and a senior teacher once the child is in school.

The named person would act as a contact if any concerns about a child’s wellbeing are raised by other agencies.

The scheme already operates in the Highlands.

While the policy has been upheld twice in the Scottish Court of Session, a determination by the UK Supreme Court is pending.

In a letter to the Scottish Parliament’s education committee, Mr Swinney said: “There remain only two weeks prior to its summer recess in which the Supreme Court could hand down its judgement.

“While I still hope that this may still happen, we face the theoretical possibility that a judgement will not have been made prior to the commencement date.

“It would not be prudent or responsible for government to commence legislation while a decision from the court is still pending as this would potentially create confusion on both practical and legal grounds.”

He added: “It is for this reason that I wish to advise Parliament that the Government will not move to implement Parts 4 and 5 of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 until there is a definitive judgement from the Supreme Court on this judicial review. This follows usual practice and provides clarity for all concerned.”

Mr Swinney insisted that the “contingency planning in no way undermines this Government’s commitment to the named person policy.”

He hopes a Supreme Court judgement will be forthcoming before the court’s summer recess.