Published by Freedom Today
The Bible is crammed with generic nuggets of advice about child-rearing. Much of it is self-evident and straightforward – correct them, love them, nurture them (eg 1Thess 2:11f). Some of it is very specific, like not provoking your children to anger (Eph 6:4), or making sure you leave an inheritance to your grandchildren (Prov 12:22). And, in an age of child-centred orthodoxy and human rights, some of it has become contentious, like the use of corporal punishment (Prov 13:24). Unfortunately, there’s nothing in the Bible about what you do if your children are spending too much time playing ‘Call of Duty’ or more engaged with Facebook than their physics homework. But from several broad biblical principles has emerged some sound Judæo-Christian praxis about child-rearing. Basically, parents know what’s best for their children, and with the right instruction and discipline administered with consistency and love, they will become an asset to you, to their communities and to God.
But the Scottish Government is about to usurp parental autonomy on a staggering scale. The land that gave us John Knox, Eric Liddell and Robert Murray M’Cheyne is intent on supplanting the Dark Ages of antiquated Christian fideism with an aggressive form of illiberal humanist rationalism.
The secrets of child-rearing are not, it seems, intuitively and naturally entwined in parental DNA, or handed down the generations by tradition, or even God-given in accordance with dusty moralising books like the Bible. No, the secular Scottish Government has observed human nature, tested its ethical hypothesis and had an empirical Eureka moment. We can now go beyond the myopic parental boundary of child-rearing knowledge, and establish a new framework of pedagogical experience. We will call it the ‘Named Person’ principle of authority – an approved state guardian for every child in Scotland.
No matter how intuitive, experienced, intelligent or loving the parents may be, it is the Scottish state which now knows what’s best for its children. The new Act demands that, from birth, each and every child in Scotland will have a dedicated state-appointed professional looking after their welfare; a ‘Named Person’, doubtless armed with a sociology degree or diploma in child psychology, assessing the interests, development, health and safety of Scottish bairns and weans. Whenever these guardians disagree with a mother’s intuition or a father’s opinion, their box-ticking duty will be to supplant parental responsibility and intervene for the good of the child. It is the nationalisation of nurture.
The scheme transgresses not only traditional parental freedoms, but implies a whole new regulatory framework relating to the sharing of data. Each ‘Named Person’ will have rights of access to children’s school records, NHS files and other confidential documents to use as they see fit. If a child falls and bruises itself or the parent happens to forget a doctor’s appointment, they can expect a swift inquisition to determine why.
All of this is undeniably born of good intentions out of the purest of motives. We have heard too many harrowing stories of children beaten senseless or starved to death: unloved babies crying with hypothermia; toddlers with fractured bones and vacant stares, their little emaciated bodies covered in a patchwork of smack marks, bruises, swellings, cuts and cigarette burns. You won’t need to google some of the names: Victoria Climbié, Peter Connolly (‘Baby P’), Daniel Pelka, Khyra Ishaq, Mikaeel Kula…
The issues are complex and difficult. But the omissions and failings of a handful of teachers, doctors and social workers to spot the malice and inhumanity of a few parents does not justify the state-monitoring of every child from birth to the age of 18. Setting aside the vastness of the updating-and-maintaining bureaucracy, not to mention the intolerable pressures that will be placed on already overstretched resources (Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?), such a system is highly prone to abuse. It isn’t set to become law until August 2016, but some regions are already bypassing the Data Protect Act (1998) and sharing children’s medical reports and confidential correspondence with an assigned ‘Named Person’. Even the European Convention on Human Rights appears to offer no protection. Article 8 determines: “Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.” But not, it appears, in Scotland.
The ‘Named Person’ will be able to contact, counsel and advise children without parental consent; the presumption being that every parent is potentially negligent or deficient. And there will be no opt-out. As Aidan O’Neill QC has observed, the scheme is “predicated on the idea that the proper primary relationship that children will have for their well-being and development, nurturing and education is with the State rather than within their families and with their parents”.
Director of The Christian Institute Colin Hart said: “This is the kind of situation we have been warning about since MSPs decided to meddle with the rights of families to have a private life. The state seems intent on usurping the role of parents and reducing them to helpless spectators in the lives of their children. Mums and dads should be very afraid of this kind of Big Brother invasion into their lives and their homes.”
Forget ‘Big Brother’; this is ‘Massive Mother’ (or, sensitive to Caledonian diglossia, ‘Muckle Mither’). She is secular, statist and essentially Socialist. And she is about to make great incursions into Scottish freedoms.