Plans to get Harry Potter author JK Rowling to act as a poster girl for the flagging “Getting it Right for Every Child” policy – which includes the controversial plans to provide every child with a “named person” – have been revealed through a freedom of information request.
Getting it Right for Every Child (Girfec) is the Scottish government’s approach to safeguarding children and young people but it has been mired in controversy since it sought to introduce a professional, often a teacher, to oversee the wellbeing of every child from birth to 18.
Some parents' bodies and Christian organisations have taken issue with the initiative, describing Named Person as a “Big Brother scheme”.
Now the minutes from a meeting of Scottish government officials and outside stakeholders have revealed a call to “get JK Rowling on board” to help publicise Girfec and “countermine the likes of Alexander McCall Smith” and other “Z listers”.
The reference to Smith, the celebrated No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency author and lawyer, is thought to have been prompted by his 44 Scotland Street story, which is serialised in a newspaper. One character decries the Named Person scheme for “insulting parents” by “insisting that every child in Scotland should have a sort of official guardian”.
JK Rowling 'was not approached'
At a meeting on June 21 2017, plans were drawn up for introducing the scheme. Under the plans for August 2018, an official wrote: “High-profile person/celebrity — as that is the world we live in — to publicise Getting it Right for Every Child. Get JK Rowling on board, countermine the likes of Alexander McCall Smith — Z listers.”
A spokesman for JK Rowling is reported as saying: “As far as we are aware, JK Rowling has not been approached to support the Scottish government’s Named Person scheme and there is no further comment.”
A Scottish government spokesman said: “This comment was not made by the Scottish government, and nor does it in any way reflect our views. It was minuted within a summary of ideas put forward by external stakeholders. We recognise the important literary contribution made by Alexander McCall Smith, as illustrated by the reception in his honour hosted by the first minister at Bute House on August 17.”
Alison Preuss, of the No 2 Named Person campaign group, received the minutes after submitting a freedom of information request.
She said: “It seems an odd thing to have discussed at a serious meeting. It now seems obvious they weren’t very confident on getting the legislation through.”
The government brought forward its Children and Young People (Information Sharing) (Scotland) Bill last year but it hit a stumbling block – the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Skills Committee refused in December to produce a report on it until the government provided a draft code of practice.
Education secretary and deputy first minister John Swinney estimated at the time that it could take until this month “at the earliest” to produce the draft code. Named Person was due to come into force in 2016.