The Scottish Government’s Named Person proposals were last night plunged into further controversy when a row erupted over a key appointment made by John Swinney.
Campaigners against the plans to give every Scottish child a Named Person to keep an eye on their welfare are objecting to the Education Secretary’s appointment of Ian Welsh as chair of a panel set up to turn round the beleaguered legislation.
They question how he can be seen as independent, given that he works for an organisation that receives millions of pounds in funding from the Scottish Government.
Welsh is the chief executive of the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland, which received more than £9 million in Scottish Government grants.
According to No 2 Named Person (N2NP), accounts lodged with Companies House for the year ending 30 June, 2016 showed the extent of public funding received by the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland.
The total amount received in grants by the third sector organisation came to £9,228,167, of which the vast majority (£9,034,595) came from the Scottish Government.
The most recent figures showed a large increase on 2015 when grants totalled £4,506,343 – of which £4,332,217 was from the Scottish Government.
The Named Person legislation has been mired in difficulties after it was successfully challenged in the courts. Swinney and Nicola Sturgeon have both pledged to press ahead with it, despite the threat of a fresh legal challenge. The proposals were also dealt a severe blow when Holyrood’s education committee said it was unable to approve the legislation as it stands.
The committee had heard that an illustrative code of practice about how information should be shared about children was too complex as well as evidence that professionals were “confused and nervous” about that aspect.
Simon Calvert of N2NP said: “Mr Swinney said when he appointed Ian Welsh that he would head an ‘independent panel’. But it’s difficult to consider him to be independent when, as chief executive of the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland, his organisation funnelled more than £9m a year in taxpayers’ money from the Scottish Government.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “This is nonsense. Ian Welsh has vast experience and knowledge of children’s services and is very well respected within the sector.
“This means he is uniquely placed to independently chair the Named Person panel and lead the development of a user-friendly code of practice, statutory guidance and other support materials that take account of new data protection laws –and bring clarity and certainty on this important issue.”