Ruth Davidson to renew calls to scrap controversial named-person scheme


Ruth Davidson will renew calls for the Scottish Government to scrap its controversial named-person scheme in her address to the Conservative party conference.

The Scottish Conservative leader will tell an audience in Birmingham that the SNP administration should instead prioritise targeted support for families who are struggling to cope.

She will highlight Tory proposals for a Crisis Family Fund as well as a network of "family hubs" to provide advice, especially in deprived parts of Scotland.

The Scottish Government was forced to delay the roll-out of the named-person policy after the UK Supreme Court ruled some elements are "incompatible'' with the right to privacy and family life, as set out in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

Earlier this month Scottish Education Secretary John Swinney announced a three-month consultation on how to make the scheme comply with the law, and pledged to tackle public mistrust.

The policy, introduced as part of the Children and Young People Scotland Act of 2014, would appoint a single point of contact, such as a teacher or health visitor, to look out for the welfare of all children up to the age of 18.

Opponents who launched a legal challenge argued the scheme is overly intrusive into family life and could lead to an increased workload for those tasked with administering it.

In her speech Ms Davidson will say: "We would scrap the named-person plan and start again.

"Let me be clear, we have never had a problem with a single point of contact advising and supporting a child or a parent who wants one.

"Nor have we ever had a problem with that same person helping a child or a parent access the service they need.

"But what we would scrap, right now, are the provisions which give that person the power to monitor a child's wellbeing.

"And we would scrap, right now, the power to share that information with a whole range of public bodies, all behind the backs of parents.

"A single point of contact, fine. Let's make it easier for parents and children to get access to the services they need.

"But a state-appointed guardian with powers to go behind parents' backs? No."

Ms Davidson will say a crisis fund would support projects providing intensive support for parents struggling with drug addiction, debt or mental health problems, while family hubs in poorer areas would provide advice on employment, relationships and parenting.

The Tories would also focus on boosting home ownership for young families, "creating the conditions for the most ambitious house-building programme in a generation".

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "The policy aim of providing a named-person service has been judged by the Supreme Court to be entirely legitimate.

"The Supreme Court's ruling requires changes to be made specifically to the information-sharing provisions of the 2014 Act.

"Ministers remain absolutely committed to the named-person service and the Deputy First Minister updated Parliament outlining how the Government is working towards the implementation of the service.

"We will engage with key partners across public services, the third sector, Parliament and the wider public throughout the process as we make the necessary changes to the legislation."