The Scottish Government has spent almost £500,000 of taxpayers’ money on legal costs relating to its controversial Named Person Scheme.
The bill for defending the state guardian scheme in the courts currently stands at £479,461, according to figures released following a Freedom of Information request.
The scheme, which will see a single point of contact assigned to monitor the welfare of every child in Scotland, was ruled unlawful by the UK’s Supreme Court in July last year.
Judges said that while its aim was “legitimate and benign”, its data-sharing aspect was incompatible with the right to privacy under the European Convention on Human Rights.
Ministers remain committed to introducing the scheme, but attempts to change it to satisfy the Supreme Court ruling have prompted further criticism and delays.
Figures released by the Scottish Government show that it initially spent £278,916 defending the Named Person Scheme in the Scottish courts after its legality was challenged.
Although judges at the Court of Session twice ruled that the scheme could go ahead, the No To Named Person campaign group then took the case to the Supreme Court. Defending the plans in the UK’s highest court cost Scottish taxpayers £200,545, the figures show.
The Scottish Government said it had not made any projections for future legal costs.
Campaigners against the scheme believe it represents “unjustifiable state interference with family rights” and will stretch existing resources by including children who do not need help.
However, children’s charities have backed the plans, arguing that they will merely give children and parents a single point of contact if they need extra support.
No To Named Person spokesman Simon Calvert described the legal bill as “just a drop in the bucket” when the total cost of the scheme was taken into account.
He added: “The Scottish Government have thrown millions and millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money at this white elephant scheme.
“They spent years training people in a wrong understanding of the law on sharing private family information.
“They have just announced they’ll spend yet more on re-training to undo the damage. The meter’s running at an alarming rate at a time of austerity.
“They need to just give up and scrap the whole scheme.”
READ MORE: Revived ‘Named Person’ plans still won’t work, warn legal chiefs
Liz Smith, education spokeswoman for the Scottish Conservatives, said the Named Person Scheme had been “flawed from the beginning”.
She added: “This is a very considerable sum of taxpayers’ money which, I am sure the public will agree, would have been much better spent on the most important priority of raising attainment in our schools.
“Mr Swinney must return to his day job of raising standards in our schools rather than spending our money in the courts.”