Children (Scotland) Bill: Stage 1

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 27th May 2020.

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Photo of Liam Kerr Liam Kerr Conservative

I am grateful to the minister, but that does not change the fact that there is nothing on the subject in the financial memorandum. I believe that my point is well made. Either it is already happening—or should be happening, as the minister suggested in committee—in which case let us have the data that shows that it is happening and that the provision in the bill therefore has no cost implication, or it is not happening, in which case there is a potential cost implication that will provide a reason for local authorities not to do it, because the money is not there.

As you have heard, Presiding Officer, I remain unpersuaded. Perhaps the provision of resources can be re-examined. The word “practicable” should probably be removed or, as a bare minimum, guidance provided that makes very clear what the word means. I look forward to meeting the minister and Neil Findlay to work on that further.

My final point is one that Fulton MacGregor explored a couple of times. It goes back to the terminology. Courts have powers to make residence orders and contact orders in order to set out things such as where children are to live, which parents they are to live with and which other family members they may have contact with. By way of further example, section 10 uses the words

“whether of the half-blood or of the whole-blood”.

It has been suggested that those terms are somewhat loaded. In addition, chartered psychologist Dr Sue Whitcombe told Mr MacGregor:

“the term ‘contact’, in particular, is quite abhorrent”.—[

Official Report

,

Justice Committee

, 14 January 2020; c 18.]

Megan Farr, representing the children’s commissioner, said:

“we do not think that the phrase ‘whether of the half-blood or of the whole-blood’ is particularly helpful.”—[

Official Report

,

Justice Committee

, 7 January 2020; c 30.]

The Scottish Government consulted on but did not include in the bill a proposal to update the terminology that is associated with the court orders. Several other countries have made changes to their terminology, including England and Wales, which talk of “child arrangements orders”.

I do not take a strong view yet, but members know that I get very exercised about semantics and the power and precision of terminology. If Fulton MacGregor chooses to explore the point, he may find that support is forthcoming.