Children (Scotland) Bill: Stage 1

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

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Photo of Jamie Greene Jamie Greene Conservative

Absolutely. Just as children are on the receiving end when two adults are having a dispute that is no fault of the chil d, it is equally no fault of the grandparents, who are in the middle of it. Whether it is possible to legislate to meet those needs, I am not sure. I think that Liam Kerr touched on that. I know that the committee will look carefully at that at stage 2 and with a positive and open mind. However, that throws up the issue that the legislation cannot take into account every scenario. Does apportioning rights to grandparents or siblings detract from the rights of any other party in the discussion? The disputes and negotiations are often complex. As Gordon Lindhurst said, the judge has the freedom and independence to make the decision on the evidence that has been presented to him.

I wish that I had more time. I thought that I would struggle for content because I am not a member of the Justice Committee, but a lot has been said today.

The issue of mediation and early resolution is very important. It is always better if people do not get to court. Signposting is not always good enough for many parents, but there were suggestions that mandatory mediation could be piloted. That seems sensible, but it might not always be appropriate, especially in the circumstances of domestic abuse.

Issues to do with confidentiality, sharing information, conflicts of interest between parents, section 10 and the weakening of language around the rights of siblings have been raised. Those are all valid technical points to be debated at stage 2.

Let us not forget that, as James Kelly said, it is important that, in a dispute between parents, it is the children who are at the centre. It is the children who are caught in the middle of that.

I wish Fulton MacGregor’s son a happy birthday—I promise not to sing. Fulton MacGregor made an important point. His experiences as a social worker remind us that disputes are legal, but they are also human. People are at the heart of law, and people—even little people—should be at the heart of the legislation.