Kezia Dugdale: A 15-year-old school pupil is about to change the law

Boroughmuir High pupil Heather Nicol and Kezia Dugdale discuss 'Heather's Law' which would enable children to refuse to see an abusive parent (Picture: Greg Macvean)
Boroughmuir High pupil Heather Nicol and Kezia Dugdale discuss 'Heather's Law' which would enable children to refuse to see an abusive parent (Picture: Greg Macvean)
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Yesterday I had the privilege of accompanying Boroughmuir pupil Heather Nicol to the BBC Scotland studios in Edinburgh so that she could share the details of her campaign to change the law on the airwaves of Call Kaye.

Heather set up an online petition last year asking her friends and school mates to back the idea of giving children the right to refuse to see one of their parents if they’d been convicted of a domestic abuse offence. It’s one of those issues which is so obvious you start off angry that it isn’t a serious option in the first place.

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Earlier this year the Scottish Parliament passed ground-breaking new laws that made coercion a criminal offence. That’s the principal that a husband doesn’t have to physically hit his wife to abuse her. He could control her psychologically or financially. It was a huge step forward, but left unfinished business in how the law relates to children. Particularly around access requirements. Even when a husband and wife divorce, access arrangements to see the kids force a relationship between the parents that’s difficult and potentially as scarring as an abusive marriage.

That’s why Heather’s law is so important. It will bolster the rights of children to have their say. If they don’t want to see one of their parents, then they can exercise that right, in turn unshackling mum as well. Imagine being able to say aged 15, that you’re on the cusp of changing the law. What a young woman.

READ MORE: Psychological abuse in the home becomes Scottish criminal offence