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 Kenny MacAskill Kenny MacAskill Scottish National Party 3:00 pm, 15th December 2005

It is clear that there is agreement in the chamber that wider family involvement is beneficial. However, I concur with the points made by Christine Grahame, Mary Mulligan and Margaret Mitchell. To enshrine contact between grandparents and grandchildren in law would be fundamentally wrong. What matters, and what must always be paramount, is the best interests of the child. There is no doubt that the involvement of a loving grandparent, aunt or uncle is beneficial and will add to a child's life, but to force the involvement of grandparents on the child would be counterproductive.

As has been pointed out, there is already an opportunity for any interested party—regardless of whether they are a blood relative—to apply for a contact or residence order. Sometimes, tragedies occur when sons and daughters fall out with their parents, but they should work towards reconciliation. It would be fundamentally wrong to enshrine in law the opportunity to make an order for access to a grandson or granddaughter, except in the most unusual circumstances in which part of the family is deceased. We should accept what Mary Mulligan said. We must take cognisance of the grandparents charter, but fundamentally we must trust in the good sense of our judges and sheriffs, who, in the main, tend to get it right. These are difficult matters and decisions must be made on each individual case. We should not force the issue in any particular circumstance.