Scottish Government '˜urged to use Harry Potter' to boost named person policy

Scottish Government officials were urged to recruit J K Rowling in an attempt to popularise their controversial named person proposals, papers have revealed.
Officials were urged to get Ms Rowling on board. Picture: Yui Mok/PA WireOfficials were urged to get Ms Rowling on board. Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire
Officials were urged to get Ms Rowling on board. Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire

According to a Scottish Government document, the idea that a bit of Harry Potter magic could make the unpopular scheme more palatable was mentioned at a meeting last year.

The document, newly obtained under Freedom of Information legislation, is a note of a meeting with named person providers held in August last year as part of the Scottish Government’s getting it right for each child (GIRFEC) policy. A key part of GIRFEC is the scheme which will see every child given a named person, responsible for their welfare. Critics believe named persons will undermine family life and be an unwarranted intrusion by the state.

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The document said: “Get JK Rowling on board, countermine the likes of Alexander McCall Smith – Z listers.”

The reference to Professor McCall Smith, another best-selling Scottish author, is thought to have arisen because a character in his 44 Scotland Street series had just been critical of the named person scheme. In a Scotland Street episode, serialised by The Scotsman in May last year, the scheme is mentioned by Professor McCall Smith’s character Domenica, who said:  “The named person legislation. Can you believe it? Can you believe that they’re insisting that every child in Scotland should have a sort of official guardian – because that’s what it amounts to. Can you conceive of a better way of insulting parents?”

In another episode there is an unflattering description of an unattractive character as an “archetypical named person.”

A spokesman for the anti-named person group NO2NP said the government had lost the battle for hearts and minds on named person, adding it would “take more than a trip to Hogwarts” to rescue the policy.

A spokesman for J K Rowling said he was not aware of the author being approached by the Scottish Government. A Scottish Government spokesman said: “This comment was not made by the Scottish Government – and nor does it in any way reflect our views. It was minuted within a summary of ideas put forward by external stakeholders. We recognise the important literacy contribution made by Alexander McCall Smith – as illustrated by the reception in his honour hosted by the First Minister at Bute House.”