Aidan O’Neill QC hired to challenge guardian plan

A LAWYER who made the case against minimum alcohol pricing has been asked to lead a legal challenge against another Scottish Government policy to appoint a named guardian for every child.

MSPs backed legislation in February which will mean everyone up to the age of 18 will have a 'named person' assigned to look out for their welfare. Picture: TSPL

Aidan O’Neill QC will put forward the case on behalf of the Christian Institute (CI), which is spearheading opposition to the plan.

MSPs approved legislation in February which will mean everyone up to the age of 18 will have a ‘’named person’’ - such as a health worker or headteacher - assigned to look out for their welfare.

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The CI has raised more than £30,000 to fund a Judicial Review of the proposal contained in the Children and Young People ( Scotland ) Act.

Campaigners say the blanket nature of the named person provisions “constitutes a disproportionate and unjustified interference with the right to respect for individual family’s right to a private and family life”.

Mr O’Neill acted for the Scotch Whisky Association when it led a challenge against minimum pricing legislation.

The case was referred to the European Court of Justice by appeal judges at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

He has prepared a legal opinion on the case against the named person legislation, arguing that the Scottish Government may have acted outwith its powers and breached the European Convention on Human Rights.

A spokesman for the CI said a notice of intent to take action has been sent to the Government, while the papers are expected to be lodged at the end of June.

CI director Colin Hart said: “The minimum pricing case shows that if MSPs ignore their legal obligations, then the courts will step in. We have taken great heart from this decision.

“We are really arguing from a similar perspective and stating that MSPs have exceeded their authority in trying to impose their will over the European Convention of Human Rights.

“This new Holyrood law will give almost boundless powers to a state which is driven to control every aspect of people’s private lives despite the fact that Europe places family life above the interests of the state.

“We are delighted that Mr O’Neill has agreed to act on our behalf and we are optimistic about the outcome.”

Donations to fund the case have been made from more than 70 different sources including the Christian Institute, the Christian charity CARE (Christian Action Research and Education), Scotland for Marriage and the Family Education Trust.

Individuals have also added their support from the Highlands as well as Perth and Kinross, where named person pilot schemes have been operating.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We are confident that the Act is compliant with the European Convention on Human Rights and we don’t consider it necessary or appropriate to delay implementing its provisions.

“The legislation was supported by a majority of those who responded to the public consultation, backed by a wide range of children’s representatives and professionals working daily to support families across the country and endorsed by the Parliament.”

“It is focused on safeguarding the wellbeing of all of Scotland’s children, including those who are or may in future be at risk of harm.”