Judges have said that the Scottish National Party’s controversial Named Person scheme is unlawful and lacks safeguards for the sharing of sensitive information.
The five Supreme Court judges said there were concerns about sharing of confidential data – Photo credit: PA
In a damning ruling, the Supreme Court said it breached Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights entitling individuals to a private and family life.
Under the proposals, every child in Scotland will have a professional, such as a teacher or a social worker, assigned to monitor their wellbeing.
SNP ministers say the measures are necessary to protect young people from abuse.
A group of four charities – including the Christian Institute and Family Education Trust – and three individuals launched a legal case claiming the plans amounted to “unjustified and unjustifiable state interference with family rights”.
In their unanimous ruling, the five judges raised concerns about a “lack of safeguards” for the sharing of sensitive information.
They said: “It is thus perfectly possible that information, including confidential information concerning a child or a young person’s state of health (for example as to contraception, pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease) could be disclosed … to a wide range of public authorities without either the child or young person or her parents being aware of the interference with their article 8 rights.”
However, they dismissed claims the proposals were disproportionate, concluding that the plan for information sharing “undoubtedly pursues legitimate policy aims and is clearly rationally connected to those aims”.
The ruling stops short of campaigners’ wish to scrap the legislation, but says the Scottish Parliament and Ministers should be given the chance “to correct the defects which we have identified”.
Deputy first minister John Swinney said the Scottish government would move quickly to address the concerns raised in the ruling – but insisted the scheme would still go ahead.
“I welcome the publication of today’s judgement and the fact that the attempt to scrap the named person service has failed.
“The Supreme Court has stated that the aim of the legislation, in promoting and safeguarding the wellbeing of children and young people, is ‘unquestionably legitimate and benign’. It makes clear that the principle of providing a named person to support children and families does not breach human rights.
“The court’s ruling requires us to provide greater clarity about the basis on which health visitors, teachers and other professionals supporting families will share and receive information in their named person role. We will start work on this immediately so we can make the necessary legislative amendments. The service will be implemented nationally at the earliest possible date.”
But Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson said the “illiberal, invasive and deeply flawed” scheme should be scrapped.
She said: “Simply put, the SNP does not know better than parents when it comes to raising their children.
“We have consistently argued against the named person legislation on grounds of principle and practicality.
“I hope today’s ruling will make the SNP stop and think again.
“If the Scottish government arrogantly tries to implement this anyway – as it has threatened to do – it will face a heavy reckoning from Scottish parents who rightly want to be able to raise their children without state interference.”