A few days ago in an interview with BBC Scotland’s political heavyweight, Brian Taylor, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was faced with evidence of the extent of popular recoil from her party’s totalitarian statutory imposition of a Named Person / State Guardian on every young person in Scotland from birth to legal maturity.
The FM’s response was to try to nuance the position by saying that the provision was an ‘entitlement’; and was not compulsory but optional.
It was quickly pointed out by a spectrum of experts and informed commentators that this was misleading – and untrue; that the statutory position was not optional but indeed compulsory.
Worse for Ms Sturgeon, the SNP government’s own lawyer immediately contradicted her, saying that ‘it is compulsory’ and were it optional, it would defeat the whole purpose.
In response on 29th March 2016, the increasingly less than sure footed – and often flustered – Ms Sturgeon, has made the situation even worse for herself.
On Tuesday the First Minister’s clarification of her so very recent declaration to Brian Taylor was that parents may choose to opt out of collaboration with the Named Person system – but their children may not.
As the statute makes clear – and it is due to come into full implementation across Scotland later this year – every child from birth to legal maturity will indeed have a compulsory Named Person appointed by the state to oversee their individual wellbeing; and to make whatever interventions they deem necessary to protect and develop state described wellbeing.
That a Named Person is a statutory imposition upon all children and young people in Scotland – and that their parents may choose to have nothing to do with the system, underlines the truth of two hard edged realities which those opposed to the measure have highlighted since the outset of the proposal:
- this is indeed and fully a state guardianship of each child and young person in Scotland;
- the authority of parents is indeed secondary to that of the accurately identified State Guardian. Parental engagement with the state’s evaluation of the welbeing of their children is an optional extra; where the authority of the appointed State Guardian and their role in the life of the child is non-negotiable, legally enforced and supreme;
- a parent – still, presumably, with titular legal responsibility for their child, may not subtract their child from the system. This is an automatic statutory relegation and substitution of authority which, without specific and good cause, looks inconsistent with human rights commitments.
This illiberal and wildly expensive dogmatic mess has a long way to run.