7 March 2016

Government guardians usurp parents in Sturgeon’s spying state


Tomorrow the Supreme Court will begin hearing a Judicial Review challenging the Scottish government’s scheme to impose a ‘Named Person’ as state guardian of every child in Scotland, with authority legally superseding that of parents. There is no comparable intrusion into family life in any other Western country.

Two previous hearings in Scotland’s Court of Session determined that this totalitarian scheme did not breach the right to the enjoyment of family life proclaimed by the European Convention on Human Rights. Now campaigners are resorting to the highest court in the United Kingdom to seek redress from unprecedented state intrusion.

The Named Person system, the key element in the Scottish government’s Getting It Right For Every Child (GIRFEC) social-engineering programme, was introduced under the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act. Although it will not formally be in place until August, it is already being implemented across Scotland. The Named Person, for the first 10 days after birth, will be the midwife; then, until the child goes to school, the role will be undertaken by a health visitor. From age five to 18, the head teacher or a dedicated guidance teacher will be appointed Named Person for an unknown number of children.

While the chief objections to this aggression against the family by the intruder state are moral, philosophical and libertarian, the practical obstacles to the scheme are also striking. Although it will only have to cover some 55,000 children in its first year, that number will increase annually until, at the end of 18 years and permanently thereafter, Named Persons will be required for more than one million young people, over one-sixth of the Scottish population.

But there will be no parallel increase in the number of head teachers and guidance staff over the same period. So, a pool of 2,657 head teachers (including independent schools) and a necessarily finite number of deputy principals and dedicated guidance teachers will be required to oversee 810,000 youngsters of school age.

Simultaneously, individually named health visitors, of whom there are just 1,300 in Scotland, will have to supervise 280,000 pre-school children. NHS Lothian has already warned it does not have adequate staff, with a 19 per cent vacancy rate, rising to 44 per cent in Midlothian. The Scottish government has resorted to its usual expedient of throwing taxpayers’ money at a problem, allocating £40m to recruitment of 500 extra health visitors – to do a job other than health visiting.

They are required to visit the child eight times during its first 12 months and are empowered to ask intrusive questions about intimate matters such as “family finances” and even “contraceptive choices”. Later they can investigate issues such as “sun safety” (in Scotland!) and “screen time”. In any conflict between parents and a Named Person the state guardian’s view legally prevails.

Scottish parents are now subordinate influences in their children’s lives, with a state-appointed guardian having ultimate authority. Kim Jong-un would love it. Other agencies have a legal duty to furnish a Named Person with private medical reports and other confidential information. There is serious concern about the consequences of such computerised records being shared by social services, police, education, housing and other agencies on an integrated database euphemistically described in bureaucrat-speak as “joined-up services”.

One of the first appointed Named Persons, a teacher given oversight of 200 children, was recently struck off by the General Teaching Council of Scotland for sending electronic messages “regarding the sexual abuse of children”. A newspaper editorial asked whether the Scottish government would accept responsibility if “a Named Person was later found to be an abuser”.

Last December voluntary sector workers at a GIRFEC training session were told by a Scottish Borders Child Protection Committee’s training and development officer that more than 600 taxi drivers with local authority contracts to transport children had been told they had a legal duty to report conversations they heard – the ultimate spy in the cab.

In the old Soviet satellite states it was notorious that taxi drivers were the prime informants for the “organs of state security”. The same now applies in Nicola Sturgeon’s Stasi state. It has also been revealed that schoolchildren, under the Named Person scheme, will be subjected regularly to intrusive psychological tests, requiring them to complete questionnaires about intimate aspects of their family life. These will be stored in a large government database and analysed to select pupils for investigation by Named Persons.

If tomorrow’s appeal in the Supreme Court is unsuccessful it seems likely that those resisting this totalitarian imposition by the SNP will take the case to the European courts. European law is as much on trial as the authoritarian aspirations of the Scottish government: if it cannot protect families from the effective nationalisation of children and systematic spying on parents it is not fit for purpose.

Gerald Warner is a political commentator.