Ruth Davidson demands U-turn over ‘named person’

No piping down for Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson. Picture: Lesley Martin
No piping down for Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson. Picture: Lesley Martin
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SCOTTISH Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has called for the end of the controversial “named person” scheme that will see children assigned a state guardian, following the government’s climbdown on abolishing corroboration.

At Holyrood yesterday, she pressed First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to perform a U-turn on the legislation which will see all children under the age of 18 given a single point of contact, such as a teacher or health visitor, to look out for their welfare.

Families are asking her on named person: will she do the right thing and u-turn on this too?

Ruth Davidson

Ms Davidson said: “This First Minister has already delivered a U-turn on her predecessor’s plans on corporation tax, she has U-turned on a new women’s super prison, she’s now done the right thing and U-turned on corroboration.

“Families are askIng her on named person: will she do the right thing and U-turn on this too?”

But Ms Sturgeon told her: “On named person, Ruth Davidson cannot go on describing things that are democratically passed by a majority of this parliament, just because she doesn’t agree with them, as somehow against the democratic wishes of the country.”

Ms Sturgeon said there had been a “good, sound motivation” for getting rid of the requirement for corroboration, insisting that ministers wanted to increase the number of people convicted of crimes which take place in private.

She made the comments after Ms Davidson branded the government’s handling of the issue “one of the most shameful episodes in this parliament’s history”.

Ms Davidson said that when “legitimate concerns” about axing corroboration had been raised last year, the then justice secretary Kenny MacAskill had “dismissed them as being part of a unionist conspiracy” and accused opponents of ‘selling out the victims of crime’”.

She pressed the SNP leader on the issue at First Minister’s Questions in Holyrood just two days after Justice Secretary Michael Matheson had announced the proposal to end the need for corroboration would be removed from legislation currently before the Scottish Parliament.

He made the decision after a review by former High Court judge Lord Bonomy had recommended the rule be retained in some circumstances.

Ms Sturgeon said the Government had originally planned to end corroboration because “we want to see more people who commit crimes that are committed in private, crimes like sexual assault and rape, brought to trial and, if guilty, brought to justice”.

She stressed: “That’s the motivation here. It’s a good, sound motivation that I think everybody would agree with.

“The former justice secretary listened to the concerns that had been raised, which is why he then asked Lord Bonomy to carry out the work Lord Bonomy has now carried out.

“They have recommended a range of changes to the justice system they think should go ahead if corroboration is to be abolished, and the current Justice Secretary has rightly and properly decided we need to take a pause and consider those reforms, the substantive nature of them and the way they would change the justice system, in a round and in a holistic way.”

The First Minister stated: “I take the view that the SNP Government has handled this both appropriately and correctly but also we can evidence, because of the position we’re now in, that concerns have been raised and have not been swept aside. On the contrary, they have been listened to and acted upon.”

Ms Sturgeon continued: “I think Ruth Davidson has just demonstrated why some people out there in the general public become so cynical about politics and politicians.

“When a government presses on with a plan it’s described as steamrollering. When we take the chance to listen, and reflect and admit we might not have got everything right, it’s described as a u-turn.

“Actually, what we’ve done is the responsible and sensible thing.”

She added: “If we had been determined to push ahead, regardless of the concerns that had been raised, the abolition of corroboration would have been done by now, it would already have been law.

“The fact that it’s not proves the fact we have taken the time, first under Kenny MacAskill, to set up the Bonomy Review and now under Michael Matheson to act responsibly on that Bonomy Review.”

But Ms Davidson said Lord McCluskey, a former Solicitor General for Scotland, had claimed that concerns that had been raised last year “in the SNP’s own ranks were silenced for fear it would upset the independence referendum campaign”.

She claimed the majority SNP administration had previously “steamrollered” legislation through Holyrood “without any heed for rational or reasoned argument”.

The Conservative leader then pressed the First Minister to perform a u-turn on its named-person legislation, which will see all children under the age of 18 given a single point of contact, such as a teacher or health visitor, to look out for their welfare.

Ms Davidson said: “This First Minister has already delivered a u-turn on her predecessor’s plans on corporation tax, she has u-turned on new women’s super prison, she’s now done the right thing and u-turned on corroboration.

“Families are asking her on named person: will she do the right thing and u-turn on this too?”

But Ms Sturgeon told her: “On named person, Ruth Davidson cannot go on describing things that are democratically passed by a majority of this parliament, just because she doesn’t agree with them, as somehow against the democratic wishes of the country.”