Disclosure (Scotland) Bill: Stage 1

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 16th January 2020.

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Photo of Maree Todd Maree Todd Scottish National Party

The bill proposes that an individual who requests a disclosure certificate will see the information about them that is to be disclosed before the employer does, and they will have the opportunity to have that information reviewed by the independent reviewer. It is planned that the independent reviewer will give some feedback on the decision, so the person who is applying for the disclosure certificate will be significantly better informed under the new system than they were under the old system

ORI has a vital role in safeguarding, and continuing with that approach is necessary for public protection. I am confident that Police Scotland and other United Kingdom police forces exercise the utmost rigour before deciding to include ORI. The purpose of the name changes that we are making is to mirror the arrangements that exist in the rest of the UK, which means that people will have the opportunity to dispute ORI’s inclusion before a potential employer receives it and will have a right of review by the independent reviewer. Statutory guidance on deciding whether to include ORI will also be issued to the chief constable. The changes will ensure that the information that may be included is more foreseeable, without diminishing the capability to share relevant information.

The committee has recommended that we include in the bill

“guiding principles ... which should apply to all decision making”.

Although the existing parameters have a very strong basis in the relevant case law, I accept the case for including more detail in the bill to assist with foreseeability and clarity. I am carefully considering the recommendations and how best to include those principles, but it is important that they do not compromise the flexible approach that is necessary in fully considering each individual’s circumstances.

I also recognise the concerns around how the Disclosure (Scotland) Bill will interact with the rules on self-disclosure in relation to childhood convictions. There are a number of challenges in ensuring that we get the balance between safeguarding and proportionality right. At stage 2, I will lodge amendments to ensure that no one will have to self-disclose a childhood conviction that would not be disclosed by the state.

The Scottish Government’s experience of operating the protection of vulnerable groups scheme since its introduction has highlighted the challenges in identifying eligibility for that scheme. The past eight years have demonstrated that the term “regulated work” is poorly understood and overly complex. The bill seeks to address those concerns. Discussions with stakeholders on the definition of “regulated work” indicated that many felt that it needed to be much clearer. It was also evident that, to ensure a robust PVG system, the definition of “regulated work” needed to go further and to include those who have the ability to exercise power or influence over vulnerable groups.

We have consulted on which day-to-day activities result in power or influence over vulnerable groups. Those activities and the definition of “contact” are set out in schedules 3 and 4 to the bill. Many stakeholders have told us that the new schedules offer more clarity, but I am conscious that clear and accessible guidance will be required to support them fully. We are committed to working with stakeholders, including smaller businesses and voluntary organisations, in developing the guidance.

I have noted the concerns that were raised by Scottish Women’s Aid and the committee regarding the proposed change to the definition of “protected adult”. The intention was to move away from the current lengthy and complex definition to focus on the range of issues that affect a person’s wellbeing, capabilities and capacity. However, I recognise that, in doing so, some of the nuance in relation to those who are vulnerable due to their circumstances may have been lost. I thank Scottish Women’s Aid for highlighting that issue, and I will lodge a stage 2 amendment to ensure that such people remain within scope.

The bill is founded on extensive and on-going engagement with a broad range of stakeholders. We have listened carefully to diverse voices from across Scotland at each stage of the bill’s development, and we look forward to continuing that approach as we progress. If there is one message that I ask members to take into the debate, it is that I am listening and I will consider carefully what more might need to be done. I acknowledge that we may have different views on the best way to make progress on some aspects of this innovative bill, and I welcome the constructive discussion that we have had so far. I commit to working together with stakeholders and with members of the committee and the wider Parliament to ensure that we get the bill right for our communities, for vulnerable groups, for businesses and for charities in Scotland.

I look forward to the debate and to hearing more views from members across the chamber.

I move,

That the Parliament agrees to the general principles of the Disclosure (Scotland) Bill.