Teenagers could be removed from controversial Named Person law

John Swinney. Picture: Andrew O'Brien
John Swinney. Picture: Andrew O'Brien
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Older teenagers could be removed from the Scottish Government’s Named Person scheme, John Swinney has said.

The Deputy First Minister said Labour’s call for the legislation to be limited to children under 16 could allay wider public concerns about the scheme.

The Children and Young People Act enabled health providers and councils to appoint a single point of contact to monitor the wellbeing of everyone up to 18.

Opponents have challenged the Act in court, insisting the “state guardian” would breach human rights on private and family life.

The Supreme Court has forced the Scottish Government to review the law,
ruling the requirement to share information on child welfare between public bodies could lead to widespread dissemination of confidential data.

The Court made no criticism of the age limit in the Act but Mr Swinney said Labour’s suggestion would be considered as part of the “extensive consultation” he will undertake to improve the named person scheme.

Labour education spokesman Iain Gray said: “A 16-year-old should be treated as an adult in so many ways; they can leave school, they can work, they can marry.

“To change this now would be a strong signal from John Swinney that finally the government are listening to critical friends of the policy, such as Scottish Labour, and are willing to go further than simply tweaking the legislation around data-sharing.”

Mr Swinney said: “I’ll certainly give consideration to the suggestion that has been made by Iain Gray and the Labour Party. I have indicated that I would refresh the guidance that was available for the Named Person policy, because I accepted as a consequence of some of the political and media traffic around this issue that we needed to reaffirm to members of the public the importance of the Named Person policy.”

He said it was “a fair assessment” to say there has been a lack of clear communication about the aims of the policy, and he accepts responsibility for that.

He stressed compliance with the Named Person scheme is voluntary but acknowledged the Supreme Court’s recommendation that the opt-out procedure should be made more explicitly clear.

The scheme was due to be rolled out at the end of August but Mr Swinney said it has now been delayed indefinitely.