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August 9, 2013

UN Treaty Turning Scotland into Nanny State

William A. Estrada, Esq.
Director of Federal Relations
Ethan J. Foster
Federal Relations

“Above this race of men stands an immense and tutelary power, which takes upon itself alone to secure their gratifications and to watch over their fate. That power is absolute, minute, regular, provident, and mild. It would be like the authority of a parent if, like that authority, its object was to prepare men for manhood; but it seeks, on the contrary, to keep them in perpetual childhood: it is well content that the people should rejoice, provided they think of nothing but rejoicing.”
—Alexis De Tocqueville, Democracy in America


HSLDA has long opposed the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) because—if ratified by the U.S. Senate—we believe it would radically alter the parent-child relationship. We oppose the ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) for the same reasons.

Scotland—a nation that has ratified both the CRC and CRPD by virtue of being part of the United Kingdom—recently validated our concerns regarding these UN treaties. On April 17, 2013, the Scottish Parliament introduced legislation called the “Children and Young People Bill.” This bill looks to the CRC for authority and inspiration and would require the government to appoint a state supervisor for every child at birth. The memoranda to the bill state that it is designed to “reflect in domestic law the role of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child” and is intended to advance this UN treaty by “providing a safeguard in domestic law which ensures that the CRC will continue to influence decisions on public policy in the future.”

The Scottish bill seeks to advance the CRC by restructuring the entire child care system in Scotland, and the bill’s accompanying policy memorandum states, “This is not just an issue of prioritizing resources, important as that is. It is also about shifting the culture” to reflect a changing relationship between young people and public services and communities.

Would such a far-reaching law be possible in the United States if we ratify the CRC or CRPD? Maybe not. But it is likely that no law like this was ever envisioned by ordinary citizens when the United Kingdom first ratified the CRC and CRPD. Scotland’s proposed bill shows just how dangerous ratification of these UN treaties can be to a free nation.

How Does Scotland’s Proposed Bill Threaten the Family?

The “Children and Young People Bill” has five key components which dramatically undermine the fundamental right of parents to direct the education and upbringing of their children, and would substitute the government’s authority over every family.

1. Corporate Parents

The bill introduces a new progressive term: “Corporate Parenting.” Corporate parenting is described in the bill as a concept that encourages public bodies to act as mutual parents for the oversight and protection of children. The role of corporate parents involves tending to the well-being of young people, just like a parent. What organizations would qualify as corporate parents? Section 50 of the bill indicates a list of 26 organizations and committees that may function as corporate parents, including the Scottish Sports Council, the Scottish Police Authority, and the Principal Reporter.

According to the Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration, the Principal Reporter is a civil servant charged with receiving “referrals for children and young people who are believed to require compulsory measures of supervision.” These corporate parents report to the Scottish ministers who sit in the Scottish Cabinet, collaborate amongst themselves, and provide parenting services to young people, including children who are still in school, even those as old as age 26 who are still enrolled in school.

2. The “Named Person”—a Social Worker for Every Child Including Home Educated Children

The bill’s most chilling concept is the creation of the “named person.” The bill establishes that a “named person” such as a social worker be assigned to every child at birth. According to the bill, “A health board is to make arrangements for the provision of a named person in relation to each pre-school child residing in its area,” [Emphasis added]. The bill further extends the authority of each named persons service over “each child residing in its area.”

According to the bill’s accompanying policy memorandum, “[t]he Bill aims to ensure that every child in Scotland has a named person,” and that different named persons oversee children “from birth up to school age or when the child starts school,” while others take charge of the children “from school age up until 18 or beyond if the child is still at school.” No child is exempt. Named persons are even assigned to “home educated children.”

Section 68 of the bill’s accompanying policy memorandum states that the named person is usually a “practitioner from a health board or an education authority, and someone whose job will mean they are already working with the child.” In other words, the named person is usually a health board member or a teacher. The named person watches over children to ensure their needs are met and their rights are respected, reserving the power to intervene and prevent problems before they materialize. Also, the named person serves as a child’s “liaison” with the government and social services.

3. The Well-being Doctrine

With the passage of this bill, authorities would not need to find existing threats to children before intervening. Instead, agencies would apply the “well-being doctrine,” a set of principles promoted by the United Nations to advance the “best interests” of children. Section 74 of the bill demands that social workers evaluate whether the well-being of a child is “promoted, safeguarded, supported, affected, or subject to an effect.”

This definition is dangerously vague. “Subject to an effect” is not even defined, leaving this open to interpretation by government authorities. The definition of “well-being” hinges on whether a child is “Safe, Healthy, Achieving, Nurtured, Active, Respected, Responsible, and Included.” All state evaluations of children would use this vague test for a child’s “well-being.”

In fact, the bill’s memorandum states that well-being considerations can range from “mental health to a wider vision of happiness.” For example, the test of whether a child is “included” may depend on the inclusion of children “in the wider community and whether their views and voices are respected and heard.” If parents fail to provide state-approved environments, interventions may follow.

4. The Individualized “Child’s Plan”

The danger of the well-being doctrine is evident in the creation of the “Child’s Plan,” an individualized social service intervention for every child with a “well-being need.” According to Section 31 of the bill, “A child has a well-being need if the child’s well-being is being, or is at risk of being, adversely affected by any matter,” [Emphasis added].

A “Child’s Plan” is created by any relevant authority and remains attached to the child’s record until the problem is solved. Not only is the plan in the government’s hands, but the authorities can change the original plan (Section 31). Furthermore, the Scottish ministers can keep, share, or destroy any “Child’s Plan,” erasing the records (Section 37). Once the government creates a child plan, it can keep changing the plan so that the child never meets all the requirements and is lost in an endless system of social services.

In addition to these specialized plans, all pre-school children are subject to mandatory early learning and childcare requirements. Mandatory oversight begins upon a child’s second birthday. In short, Scottish children belong to the state from birth until graduation from school and there is nothing parents can do to stop it.

5. The Commissioner for Children and Young People in Scotland

The bill also expands the role of the Commissioner for Children and Young People beyond conducting general investigations of children to being empowered to take action at his own discretion. If the bill becomes law, the commissioner will have the authority to conduct investigations of individual children or bypass the investigation process altogether and “take such steps as the commissioner considers appropriate,” even without parliamentary consent. Furthermore, the role of enforcing the bill falls on the shoulders of the Scottish ministers and any public body they require. Key responsibilities are delegated to service providers such as health boards and local authorities. In turn, service providers have the duty of appointing “named persons” to oversee every child.


With the introduction of this bill, the Scottish Parliament is merely putting into practice what any nation would do if it is serious about honoring its treaty obligations. Scotland is developing a social service framework that centers on the supposed well-being of children at all costs. In a separate report on the privacy ramifications of the bill, its advocates acknowledge that “as well-being becomes the focus, information sharing will become more common and may at times occur contrary to the wishes of the child or family, this may result in the child or family having a lack of trust.” Nevertheless, this is a cost the Scottish government is willing that every parent should pay.

At its heart, the Children and Young People Bill orders the government to intrude into the privacy of every home with a child. By inserting the government into a mandated role of corporate parent, the natural relationship of trust and dependency that exists between parents and their children will be at best damaged and possibly obliterated.

The bill naturally follows from UN treaties like the CRC and CRPD. These treaties mandate that the “best interests of the child” is a primary consideration in all matters, and grant massive new powers to government authorities. This is the fundamental reason for why HSLDA opposes U.S. ratification of these UN treaties.

This bill is premised upon the misguided philosophy that children belong to the community, not to parents. We can be thankful that the United States has not ratified these UN treaties. But we can see by the tragic example of Scotland where our nation is headed if we ever do.

 Other Resources

News Articles and Academic Sources

ParentalRights.Org Alert

Telegraph article: “Now it’s a social worker for every child—in Scotland”

• LifeSiteNews article: “Every Scottish child to have a state-appointed overseer: new bill”

• Scotland’s Schoolhouse Home Education Association articles: “Children and Young People Bill ‘gets it wrong’ and heralds a new totalitarian Scotland” and “There’s no V (for vulnerable) in GIRFEC”

The Herald Scotland article: “Children and Young People Bill is a missed opportunity”

Scottish Express News article: “SNP bill to spy on parents is criticized by families”

• Library of Congress: Law Library guide to Children’s Rights

Scottish Government Sources and Legislation

• Text of the “Children and Young People Bill”

• Bill Attachment: Explanatory Notes

• Bill Attachment: Policy Memorandum

• Bill Attachment: Delegated Powers Memorandum

Official Summary of the bill

Privacy Impact Assessment Report

Projected Bill Impacts

Getting It Right For Every Child (GIRFEC)

A Guide to GIRFEC

GIRFEC Definition of Wellbeing

The Role of the Named Person as set forward in GIRFEC

Commissioner for Children and Young People homepage

UNICEF Page for “Young Supporters” discussing child’s rights

UK Children’s Commissioner UNCRC Page

Text of the Children (Scotland) Act of 1995

• Study of parenting skills: “Growing up in Scotland”

• Measure of parenting skills: “Measures Developed by Robert C. Pianta, Ph.D.”

Related Articles on the Convention of the Rights of the Child

Washington Times Op-ed by HSLDA President Mike Smith

Court Report: “A Deeper Understanding of the Threat of International Law”

“Nannies in Blue Berets: Understanding the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child”

The Most Dangerous Attack on Parental Rights in the History of the United States

Court Report: “Judicial Tyranny Goes Global”