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 Hugh Henry Hugh Henry Labour 3:00 pm, 15th December 2005

Rosemary Byrne's amendment 41 seeks to ensure that the court has

"regard to the charter for grandchildren".

It is important to keep emphasising that we are taking the child's perspective. We have emphasised that throughout the bill. Kenny MacAskill was right to say that we need to consider the child's best interests. Christine Grahame explained in detail how the courts examine the broader range of issues and consider the contribution that members of the wider family can make in a child's interests. Margaret Mitchell is right: the amendment would not achieve the desired outcome.

We started by developing a grandparents charter but, as discussions progressed, it became clear that we had to shift the focus back to grandchildren. It would have been wrong to consider an adult's interests ahead of those of a child. The charter is one of several packages of non-legislative projects that we are undertaking, including the parenting agreement and a public information campaign.

A range of organisations supported the drafting of the charter. We involved people from organisations such as the Association of Directors of Social Work, the Family Law Association, Parenting Across Scotland, Family Mediation Scotland, the Grandparents Apart self-help group, Stepfamily Scotland, Children in Scotland, Scottish Women's Aid and Families Need Fathers.

To avoid doubt, given that we are talking about grandchildren and not grandparents, it is useful to put on record our recognition of the tremendous role that many grandparents play. Christine Grahame is right: some grandparents play an inordinately invaluable role, although others may be quite obstructive. In general, we know that grandparents do a huge amount throughout the country.

When we debated financial support this morning, Cathy Jamieson said that we are considering a range of measures. We know that many grandparents step into the breach when parents have failed for whatever reason—whether it is medical, social or personal problems. Grandparents may be left with the burden at a time when they should, in a sense, be winding down. We need to examine how to support them far better and we are doing that.