John Swinney has begun crisis talks with the NHS, police, local authorities and children’s charities in an attempt to sort out the Named Person scheme following last week’s court judgment that found it breached human rights.
The Deputy First Minister has started discussions on how to amend the controversial legislation to make it legally acceptable.
Senior figures from councils, health boards, social work and the police have had a conference call with Swinney to talk about Thursday’s judgment by the UK Supreme Court, the highest court in the land.
The unanimous judgment by five judges was an embarrassing blow for Scottish Government ministers who have put the Named Person scheme at the heart of their plans to protect the welfare of children.
The scheme, which aims to give every child in Scotland a single point of contact who would look after their welfare, has proved extremely controversial.
Its critics claim the proposal to appoint Named Persons, who would typically be a health visitor or head teacher, is an unwelcome intrusion into family life by the state.
In Thursday’s judgment, the UK Supreme Court ruled that the scheme’s proposal to share information about children across agencies was a breach of Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights. Article 8 is concerned with the rights of people to private family life.
The Conservatives renewed their calls for the scheme to be scrapped following the judgment. Swinney has insisted the scheme, which was supposed to be rolled out next month, will go ahead. The Scottish Government has got 42 days to address the matters raised.
Swinney said: “Our aim has always been for the Named Person to provide timely support for children and families. We have always said that as part of that role, we expect that any sharing of personal information should be proportionate and relevant.
“The Supreme Court’s ruling makes clear that while the principle of providing a Named Person for each child does not breach human rights, we need to do further work to ensure those performing the role have greater clarity about sharing information, as required by the court.
“I have already spoken directly with senior figures from the public and third sectors including NHS, local authorities and Police Scotland to discuss our next steps. We will continue these discussions, including with professional bodies, to use the expertise of those working directly with children and families as we move forward with our plans.
“The government remains absolutely committed to the Named Person service so we can get it right for every child and ensure families get the right support when they need it.”
Shadow Education Secretary Liz Smith said: “The Supreme Court has blown the Named Persons scheme out of the water and it’s time that the SNP realised it’s time to stop pursuing it.
Instead of arrogantly trying to push ahead, they should listen to the many voices who are saying this policy is unworkable and unnecessary.
“Nicola Sturgeon needs to accept that she got this one wrong, and that it’s time to put the best interests of families in Scotland before her own narrow-minded political agenda.”
Labour’s education spokesman, Iain Gray, said: “The SNP Government has made an absolute mess of the Named Person scheme. The Supreme Court’s ruling confirmed that. John Swinney can’t pretend that there’s no real problem here.”