Child protection bill would encourage a 'big brother state'

Published 11 February 2014  |  

A number of past and present Moderators from the Free Church of Scotland have urged the Scottish Government to halt the passing of a bill that aims to add another layer of protection to Scotland's children and young people, believing it to be too intrusive.

The legislation proposes that every child under the age of 18 in Scotland should be given a 'named-person', most likely a health visitor or teacher, who would be a point of contact for parents to raise any concerns about the well-being of their child.

This state-approved person would be granted legal authority to ensure that every Scottish child is raised in a way deemed appropriate by the government.

In a letter to First Minister Alex Salmond, however, the Moderators have accused supporters of the bill of encouraging a "gross intrusion into family life" by the state, and argue that the legislation would "completely undermine" parental responsibility.

Rev James MacIver, minister of Knock Free Church on the Isle of Lewis, has noted that the "vast majority of Scotland's million children do not require any state intervention", and has suggested that the government's budget would be better spent on investing in local community schemes instead.

"The very concept of 'corporate parents' sets alarm bells ringing and is something becoming of a Big Brother state," he declared.

The bill has been branded by some as a "snooper's charter", including Rev Dr John Ross, who ministers in Drumnadrochit. He has called on Salmond to do "everything in his power to get rid of this snooper's charter and restore some common sense".

"The Scottish Government now seems intent on hijacking the legitimate rights and duties of parents to bring up their own children free of state interference. If this legislation is not amended, the Scottish Government will make itself the judge of every parent in this land," he says.

"There is also a very real possibility that this legislation could be used as a back door means to completely undermine parental values, judgment and discretion for their own children.

"It does not take a rocket scientist to foresee the potential for future conflict between Christian parents and the secular political correctness brigade.

"This is the sort of thing we would expect in a Fascist or Marxist regime, not in 21st century Scotland," he concludes.

Though the letter notes that the legislation is no doubt "well-intentioned", it also suggests that the bill is "fundamentally ill-conceived and liable to cause needless hurt and alarm to conscientious parents when their views conflict with the opinions of the state appointed 'nanny'".

"We are fully supportive of the Scottish Government's intention to improve outcomes for our most vulnerable children; this is a most laudable aim. However...we believe these proposals seriously overstep the mark," the letter reads.

"Fundamentally we believe that a child's values, wellbeing and development are primarily the responsibility of his or her parents, not for state-appointed guardians as these plans suggest."

A spokesperson from the Scottish Government, however, has argued that the system has already been operating well in the Highlands for several years, where it has been welcomed by parents.

"We have been consistently clear that parents are the best people to bring up their children - but sadly not all children come from safe, secure and loving homes," he explained.

"These plans, backed by teachers, health workers and other childcare professionals, aim to promote the well-being of all of Scotland's children, including protecting vulnerable young people who may be experiencing difficulties or at risk of neglect or abuse."

MSPs will vote on stage three of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill on Wednesday 19 February.

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