After section 17

Part of Family Law (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3 – in the Scottish Parliament at 3:00 pm on 15th December 2005.

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Photo of Christine Grahame Christine Grahame Scottish National Party 3:00 pm, 15th December 2005

Although I have a great deal of sympathy with amendment 41, I will not support it. Anyone who can show an interest in a child can make an application to the court at present—I use the word "interest" in its legal sense. Grandparents, aunts, uncles or associates who have been involved in the life of a child may already seek a contact order, residency or some role in a child's life. Children—often surprisingly young children, perhaps eight or nine—can be questioned by a sheriff if it is felt that they can express themselves about what they want to happen in their lives. There are many good sheriffs on the bench who specialise in the sensitive area of family law.

Grandparents often play a supportive role in relationships, although, as I learned in my 12 years of practice, some grandparents can be mischief makers when a couple are trying to reach a divorce settlement—they may pitch parents one against the other by saying things such as, "I wouldnae let him have access to the weans." Grandparents are like everybody else: a mixed crowd.

It is good to bring the issue of wider family members to the chamber and sheriffs should take cognisance of it. However, we should not enshrine it in statute.