Christian campaigners have welcomed the UK Supreme Court’s ruling against the controversial Named Person scheme proposed by the Scottish Government.
The scheme aimed to appoint a named adult – usually a teacher or health visitor – as a guardian, looking after the well-being of every child in Scotland. Holyrood approved the scheme as part of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014.
Four charities and three individuals mounted a challenge to the scheme. They included the Family Education Trust, the Christian Institute, Care (Christian Action Research and Education) and the Tyme Trust. They argued that the scheme was intrusive and took away the natural rights of parents.
The five Supreme Court judges, two of whom were from Scotland, said in their unanimous ruling: “There is an inextricable link between the protection of the family and the protection of fundamental freedoms in liberal democracies.” They quoted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”, saying that this is premised on difference: “If we were all the same, we would not need to guarantee that individual differences should be respected…”
The ruling continued: “Individual differences are the product of the interplay between the individual person and his upbringing and environment. Different upbringings produce different people. The first thing that a totalitarian regime tries to do is to get at the children, to distance them from the subversive, varied influences of their families, and indoctrinate them in their rulers’ view of the world. Within limits, families must be left to bring up their children in their own way.”
Norman Wells, director of the Family Education Trust, said: “We warmly welcome the Court’s recognition that the named person scheme represents a disproportionate intrusion into family life and undermines parents.
“Whenever the state assumes responsibility for any aspect of bringing up children, it inevitably affects the way parents view their role. The result is that parents tend to become more passive and take less responsibility for their children. Over time this creates a vicious circle in which more child neglect leads to more state intervention in children’s lives and an ever greater burden on the taxpayer.”
But the Supreme Court has not thrown out the proposed legislation completely. It has given Scottish ministers a 42-day deadline “to address the matters raised in the judgment”, including how teachers, health visitors and other professionals will share and receive information in their role as Named Persons.
The Scottish government has vowed to press ahead with the legislation. Deputy First Minister and Education Secretary John Swinney said: “We will start work on this immediately so we can make the necessary legislative amendments.”