Free Church leaders attack child protection bill

The Bill proposes a 'named person' with responsibility for each young person in the country. Picture: TSPLThe Bill proposes a 'named person' with responsibility for each young person in the country. Picture: TSPL
The Bill proposes a 'named person' with responsibility for each young person in the country. Picture: TSPL
PAST and present moderators of the Free Church of Scotland have called on MSPs to drop part of a proposed child protection bill which they claim would create a “snooper’s charter”.

The Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill, to be debated in the Scottish Parliament next week, contains proposed legislation to appoint a ‘named person’ for every youngster in the country.

Supporters claim the role, most likely to be taken on by a health visitor or teacher, would provide a system where concerns are brought to them by parents, children or other professionals who know the child or family, and ensure a co-ordinated response is put in place.

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The group of Moderators, however, have branded the plans as a “gross intrusion into family life” and “completely undermining of parental responsibilities (sic)”.

A letter has been sent to First Minister Alex Salmond asking him to intervene, signed by six former Moderators and the current Moderator, Rev Angus J. Howat.

The letter states: “Given that the vast majority of Scotland’s million children do not require any state intervention, we believe these proposals seriously overstep the mark.

“We would be wary of the statutory appointment of a ‘named person’ for every under-18 in Scotland, especially given that this ‘named person’ will have legal authority to ensure our young people are raised in a state-approved manner.

“We do not doubt that the proposal is well-intentioned but we believe it to be fundamentally ill-conceived and liable to cause needless hurt and alarm to conscientious parents when their views conflict with the opinions of the state appointed ‘nanny’.”

‘Fascist or Marxist regime’

Former Moderator Rev James MacIver, minister of Knock Free Church on the Isle of Lewis, said: “We want the very best for all Scotland’s children and are fully supportive of the Scottish Government’s intention to improve outcomes for our most vulnerable children, but this does not warrant such a gross intrusion into every home in the country.

“Surely the Scottish Government would be better investing in more community nurses and social workers to provide help at a grassroots level for those who are really struggling?

“The very concept of ‘corporate parents’ sets alarm bells ringing and is something becoming of a Big Brother state.”

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Rev Dr John Ross, who ministers in Drumnadrochit and is another former Moderator, added: “The Scottish Government now seems intent on hijacking the legitimate rights and duties of parents to bring up their own children free of state interference.

“If this legislation is not amended, the Scottish Government will make itself the judge of every parent in this land.

“Historically, the Free Church of Scotland has always fought to be independent of state interference in all of its spiritual affairs – this does not stop at the church door on a Sunday, it goes right into the heart of the family home.”

He claimed that “too much power” would be given to the discretion of professionals, some of whom have never raised a family of their own and many of whom are already stretched to the limit.

Rev Ross added: “There is also a very real possibility that this legislation could be used as a backdoor means to completely undermine parental values, judgment and discretion for their own children.

“It does not take a rocket scientist to foresee the potential for future conflict between Christian parents and the secular political correctness brigade.

“This is the sort of thing we would expect in a Fascist or Marxist regime, not in 21st century Scotland.

“We urge Mr Salmond to do everything in his power to get rid of this snooper’s charter and restore some common sense.”

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MSPs will vote on stage three of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill on Wednesday 19 February.

The ‘named person’ role has already been implemented by one local authority and has been welcomed by some children’s charities.

Bill Alexander, The Highland Council’s director of health and social care said: “The named person role has operated effectively in Highland for a number of years.

“It has been welcomed by parents, as it has provided a clear point of contact for them, if they have any concerns about the wellbeing of their child.”