The recent obituary of Alan Finlayson (23 January) was a worthy appreciation of his life. As one of his erstwhile colleagues in the Children’s Hearing System (CHS) I did feel, however, that it might have said more about the quite remarkable contribution Alan made to Scotland’s unique system of juvenile justice.
I had the good fortune to be a Children’s Panel member in the late 1970s and early 1980s, while the vision was clearer than perhaps it is now, about what children really need.
In the three years I served as chairperson of Lothian Children’s Panel, Alan and I worked a tight, if at times argumentative, partnership. A good argument was what Alan liked best and whatever our occasional differences we were never divided on the fundamentals, or on the need to rein in the power of those who think a strict application of the law is the best way to meet the complex needs of dependent children.
Alan Finlayson was an inspiration for thousands of panel members, for social workers too, a profession in its first youth in those early years, trying against considerable odds to forge an identity for itself in the face of widespread scepticism and mistrust.
Donald Dewar, also a Reporter for a little while, comes to mind when I think of Alan. And the typically Scottish disputations and doubts surrounding the setting up of the Children’s Hearing System remind me, in a small way, of the doubts we hear expressed now about the viability of Scotland’s future as an independent nation.
I don’t know what Alan’s position was on independence but I do know that his unwavering and inspiring advocacy on behalf of the CHS, and so on behalf of children in Scotland generally, deserves some kind of equivalent recognition.
Not a statue – much too static – but something that encapsulates the vitality and optimism Alan brought to the role of Reporter.
Rue Marx Dormoy