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

First of all, I thank Iain Gray for the welcome that he has given to the provisions that I have set out today. I agree with him that there is a need to gain confidence in the named person policy. The way in which I have set out the argument for the named person policy, and the policy’s origin in the getting it right for every child framework, is an illustration of how I intend to build confidence in the application of the policy.

Mr Gray said that addressing the points made by the Supreme Court is necessary but not sufficient. I think that it is necessary and also significant in boosting confidence in the policy. If we satisfactorily address the issue of threshold—on which I closed my response to Liz Smith—we might begin to address some of the issues that have been raised about the policy. That will allow us to respond adequately to what the Supreme Court have asked us to do on addressing the issue of proportionality in the application of the policy and the judgments that are made within the policy. We can go a long way in building confidence in the policy by properly and fully addressing the requirements of the Supreme Court.

When, over the summer, Mr Gray called for me to look again at the provision in relation to 16 and 17-year-olds, I indicated that I would be prepared to consider that issue, and I remain of that view. I make two specific points to Mr Gray on the issue. First, today’s report from Childline revealed that 30 per cent of contact with Childline comes from 16 to 18-year-olds who are expressing their vulnerability to that particular medium. Although I understand and accept the points that Mr Gray makes about the fact that 16 and 17-year-olds are able to vote, join the armed forces and do many other things, there are also lots of 16 and 17-year-olds who remain vulnerable. We have to address that fact in our consideration.

My second point is that Parliament did not legislate on a whim for 16 and 17-year-olds to come within the scope of the named person provision. It did so because the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child defines a child as a young person up to the age of 18. Mr Gray will know from his long experience that the Government and the Parliament come in for criticism from time to time for not fulfilling international standards and points of recognition that are important in the policy process.

I put those points on the record, but I will give consideration to the issue that Mr Gray has raised. I made it clear in my statement that my determination is to proceed with the objective of building consensus and broad agreement on the named person policy, and that will be the approach that I take.