Sunday 15 February 2015

Won't somebody think of the children!

There is no doubt that the legacy of the Yes campaign has been generally positive. Scotland's politics is, for the most part, in a rather healthy state with very high levels of engagement and a political discourse that is rich and diverse. The fly in the ointment of Scottish politics is the dumb contrariness of those who oppose everything that the Scottish Government does, not on the basis of any rational assessment of policies and actions, but because of a deep, unthinking animosity towards the SNP.

The Named Person issue is a case in point. The hysteria with which some have reacted to the proposal is so massively out of all proportion to its effect that one can only conclude that it is driven by something other than genuine concern for families.

If a rational person was designing a family support system from scratch, a clearly identified, easily accessible single point of contact would be one of the first things they would think of and an absolute minimum requirement.

It may be regrettable that families sometimes require the support of state agencies and deplorable that children betimes require protection from those who should be their protectors. But it is nonetheless the reality with which we are obliged to deal.

In all too many cases the basic family unit is inadequate in one way or another and the support network that ideally would be provided by extended family is unavailable. In such circumstances, a duty of care falls on society as a whole, and the only practical means of discharging that collective responsibility is through state agencies. The role of government is to ensure that these agencies operate effectively on our behalf.

And that is all the Named Person proposal implies. A simple adjustment to existing arrangements which is so obviously sensible that it is difficult to understand why it wasn't done before.

Those who talk of Named Persons subverting the role of parents understand neither the role of the Named Person nor the role of parents. They foolishly imagine the ability to be a good parent to be something which is innate and instinctive when, in fact, it is a learned skill which, in a fragmented and increasingly atomistic society, many do not have the opportunity to acquire.

They suppose the parent to rightfully have an absolute authority in relation to the child which can only be questioned if and when the parent has demonstrated that they are unfit to exercise that authority - invariably in ways that are detrimental to the child.

Worst of all, they are all too commonly driven by political prejudice to object to anything the SNP administration does regardless of the merits, or even the facts of the measure.

There are undoubtedly matters relating to the implementation and operation of the Named Person arrangement which require clarification. That is why we have a consultation process. The responsible thing to do is drop the politically motivated hyperbole and engage constructively with that process.


  1. A sane voice among the ill informed who are all too willing to criticise a policy in the making.

  2. Like everything else people base their opinion on what is said in the press. Nowhere in the press have I seen any mention of anything said by the people actually involved.

    I live in Highland and although I try to keep up with what is going on, I was completely unaware that there the process had been tried out here for two years - and that during that period there had been a fall in the numbers of children being referred to social services.

    Funny how none of that has got into the press, isn't it?