Named Person Policy

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 8th September 2016.

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Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

I think that I addressed that issue in my statement, because I acknowledged the importance of addressing the issue of thresholds and proportionality.

I am not sure that I take a different view from Mr Tomkins on the question of definition.

I agree that the Supreme Court said that the provisions need to be set out in accordance with law. That is now a habitual requirement of Supreme Court judgments, which is something that postdates the passage of the legislation. The Government has defined “wellbeing” in the guidance documents that we have set out—the Supreme Court had that draft guidance in front of it—but I accept that guidance does not constitute law.

If I can do a dangerous thing and try to summarise what the Supreme Court judgment was saying, I would say that it was almost saying, “Get your guidance into law and that will be the issue addressed.” That is perhaps not Supreme Court language, but that is what I would take from its ruling. I accept that there is a job of work to be done in defining “wellbeing” in that way. That will make the provisions in accordance with law, which will address the issues that the Supreme Court has raised with us.

The issue of proportionality is important because it relates directly to the question that Mr Tomkins raises about the occasions on which and the circumstances in which the information-sharing provisions might be utilised.

There is a very important point to make, which I know is perhaps not part of the narrative that has been used in the debate to criticise the named person policy, and it is why I set out the policy position in the context of GIRFEC. There are plenty of families who want to go to a named person to get the support that they require. In general, people do not come to my surgeries to tell me how well connected public services have been; in general, they come to my surgeries to ask me to get public services better connected. Members of the public will have an opportunity to use the service to get the support that they require to assist young people, and I think that that is a good thing.