When progressive Christians and progressive politicians walk hand in hand the results are liable to be weird.
What do you do when you have an unpopular piece of intrusive government legislation to sell? If you are the Church of Scotland you rush to support the SNP government by going full bizarro. Meet Calamari SHANARRI, the well-being octopus.
This is the latest wheeze to emerge from the Church of Scotland. Crossreach, the Church’s Social Care Council, working with Scotland’s SNP government, is urging children to knit the octopus and make up stories and rhymes about it. This is in support of the Scottish government’s Getting It Right For Each Child (GIRFEC) initiative, which includes the controversial Named Person scheme, (of which more later). Inside the velvet progressive glove nestles a steel fist.
A Church of Scotland spokesperson claims the octopus is a ‘playful way to learn about the Scottish government’s aspirations for children in Scotland’. A Scottish government spokesman, with straight face and no discernible tongue in cheek, chimed in by describing the octopus as a ‘useful’ addition to GIRFEC materials.
GIRFEC is the Scottish government’s policy which lies behind the notorious Named Persons scheme. GIRFEC has been developed to teach Scotland’s children to become confident, productive and responsible members of society. Each of the octopus’s arms represents one of a child’s eight well-being indicators, which are referenced in the SHANARRI part of the name – Safe, Healthy, Achieving, Nurtured, Active, Respected, Responsible, and Included. Children will certainly need help in understanding GIRFEC. It is questionable how a knitted octopus with SHANARRI is going to provide that help.
Still, one part of Scotland’s workforce will benefit from the Named Person Scheme which is integral to GIRFEC. During the court battle over Named Persons, Aidan O’Neill QC told Supreme Court judges the legislation was so confusing that it was like ‘wrestling with an octopus’. Perhaps all unwittingly O’Neill was the inspiration behind Calamari SHANARRI.
Giving evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Skills Committee, Kenny Meechan, representing the Law Society of Scotland, said teachers and other professionals who have to navigate the complex Named Person proposals ‘will need their lawyer on speed dial’. Perhaps we should also have a SHANARRI for grown-ups.
Like the modern CofS, Scotland’s SNP government takes great pride in being ‘progressive’. By ‘progressive’ they appear to mean that the government is all for centralising measures, such as amalgamating Scotland’s eight police forces into the unitary, and much-criticised and error-prone, Police Scotland.
It is the SNP’s settled principle to maximise state intervention wherever possible. In pursuit of this they are determined to introduce the Named Person Scheme despite considerable opposition. Under this scheme every single individual in Scotland from birth until their eighteenth birthday will have a government-appointed guardian.
This is a state-approved official who will be tasked with looking after a child’s ‘well-being’. The SNP give no greater definition of a child’s ‘well-being’ than the equally nebulous ‘happiness’. This state guardian will be put in place regardless of whether or not children or parents wish to have one and irrespective of whether or not there is a perceived need for state intervention. Scotland’s parents are considered guilty by default and in need of oversight.
A government-funded leaflet indicates that the guardian’s responsibilities include having to check if children get a say in how their room is decorated and what they watch on TV. A Named Person will have the power to speak to a child on topics including very personal issues, and provide information or advice – all without requiring parental consent.
The Scottish government’s plans have run into roadblocks. The central data-sharing provisions on which the scheme relies have been declared illegal by the UK Supreme Court. This prevented the scheme from coming into force as planned on 31 August 2016. If the SNP succeeds in introducing a new version of the scheme, it will not be able to function as the Scottish government originally intended.
Accusations of bullying and witness-nobbling have caused severe problems within the Education and Skills Committee of the Scottish Parliament. Convener James Dornan has been accused of using ‘bully boy tactics’ with committee members. Holyrood’s Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh has had to announce that he will investigate claims that civil servants working for the Government have lobbied Named Person witnesses.
Despite the flaws in the proposed scheme, the clumsy mishaps in its development and progress through both parliament and courts, and the considerable opposition from healthcare and legal professionals and parents concerned by state interference, the Scottish government ploughs on. More worryingly, an agency of Scotland’s established church is working hand in glove with them.