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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Meeting of the Parliament (Hybrid) 25 August 2020

Agenda: Time for Reflection, Business Motion, Topical Question Time, Ferguson Marine, Business Motion, Children (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3, Children (Scotland) Bill, Parliamentary Bureau Motion, Decision Time


Contents


Children (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3

The Presiding Officer (Ken Macintosh)

The next item of business is stage 3 proceedings on the Children (Scotland) Bill. Members should have before them the bill as amended at stage 2, the marshalled list and the groupings. For the first division of the afternoon, the division bell will sound and proceedings will be suspended for a short technical break of five minutes or possibly slightly longer. That is the only technical break that we will have today; there will be no technical break at decision time.

The period of voting for the first division will be 30 seconds. It will be one minute for the first division in any grouping after that, but 30 seconds for most divisions.

Members should now refer to the marshalled list.

Section 1—Proceedings under Children (Scotland) Act 1995

The Presiding Officer

Group 1 is on the voice of the child. Amendment 8, in the name of the minister, is grouped with amendments 35, 12 to 16, 31 and 48.

The Minister for Community Safety (Ash Denham)

The amendments in my name seek to strengthen the bill to ensure that the child’s views are heard in family court cases and children’s hearings. That is one of the key aims of the bill.

The amendments do two things. First, they reinstate the requirement that children must be given an opportunity to express their views in relevant proceedings. That requirement was included in the bill on introduction but was partially replaced at stage 2 with a requirement for a decision maker only to seek to make reasonable arrangements for a child to express his or her views.

Secondly, the amendments ensure that, when a child’s views are sought, the child’s preferred method of giving their views is to be used unless it is not reasonable to do so or the child has not expressed a preferred method of giving their views. The amendments cover family court cases and other proceedings under the Children (Scotland) Act 1995, children’s hearings, exclusion order proceedings and permanence and adoption cases.

I return to a point about exceptions that I made at stage 2. The Scottish Government believes that the majority of children are capable of forming a view on issues that affect them, but we recognise that that will not be true in every circumstance. For that reason, the bill provides that a decision maker is not required to seek or have regard to the view of a child if they are satisfied that the child is not capable of forming a view. However, the Government does not expect that exception to be used frequently.

There is also an exception to the requirement to take the child’s views in the child’s preferred manner, because it may not be feasible in some circumstances to use the child’s preferred method of giving their views. I would expect that exception also to be used infrequently.

I have recently published a paper on the ways in which a child can give their views, and I have committed, in the family justice modernisation strategy, to produce guidance for parties on going to court. That guidance will include information on the range of ways in which a child can give their views. We will need to reflect on how the strategy and the guidance are working in practice, so I welcome amendment 48, in the name of Liam McArthur, which requires a review of the impact of the act after five years. I ask members to agree to that amendment.

I am, however, unable to support amendment 35, in the name of Alex Cole-Hamilton. Amendment 35 would require a person who does not have parental rights and responsibilities but who is making a decision to safeguard the health, development or welfare of a child to seek and take account of the child’s views on maintaining personal relationships with family members. Even if the decision was unrelated to contact and residence—if it was about something like consent to a medical procedure—I cannot imagine that that is what the member intended. The bill makes provision requiring the views of the child to be considered in a variety of contexts, so it is entirely unclear why the member is seeking to make a change in that specific context only. Doing so would create inconsistency with the rest of the bill and inconsistency for children in how their views were obtained.

I reassure the member that the bill allows the views of children to be taken into account in a wide range of circumstances and that, where relevant to the decision or to the case in question, the child’s views of their wider family relationships will be sought and taken into account as part of the process. In addition, the bill requires the court, when making an order under section 11(1) of the 1995 act, to have regard to the effect on the child’s important non-parental relationships. Therefore, I ask the member not to press amendment 35.

I move amendment 8.

15:30  

Alex Cole-Hamilton (Edinburgh Western) (LD)

At stage 2, as the minister and members of the committee will recall, I did not move my amendments that sought to maintain the child’s right to maintain personal relationships with the child’s lineal ancestors. My constituents Gordon and Shonia-Maree Mason have done a lot of work on the rights of children to maintain contact with their grandparents. They and I listened to the arguments that were raised against the stage 2 amendments, including, notably, the argument that the bill does not specify grandparents in particular, as that would exclude other relationships, and the argument that the right of a child to have contact with their grandparents would have substantially the same implications as the right of a grandparent to have contact with their grandchildren.

We have taken those arguments into account and I have lodged an amendment to section 6 of the 1995 act, which is entitled “Views of children”. That section has already been amended at stage 2 of the bill. The proposed amendment clearly focuses on the child. It focuses on the maintenance of personal relationships with family members and is thus not restrictive. It makes no mention of grandparents and therefore cannot be construed as giving rights to grandparents, and it states that the action has to be practicable and in the best interests of the child.

Familial relationships can be beneficial to the child’s health, development and welfare—issues that are included in section 1 of the 1995 act, which is entitled “Parental responsibilities”. Section 6 of the 1995 act says that a parent must have regard to any views expressed by the child, and the amendment is intended to cover all situations in which the child wishes to express a view on familial relationships. Under the amendment, the child could, therefore, express a view at any time, even when their parents’ relationship was continuing and there was no referral to court proceedings under, say, section 11 of the 1995 act—in relation to which, uniquely, the family law unit this month issued a memorandum on the subject of children giving views.

That is one crucial and distinctive point of the amendment. A parent or parents in an on-going relationship who, through spite or a grudge or another non-justifiable reason, would not allow a child to maintain personal relations with a particular family member or members would still have to have regard to the views expressed by the child when the maintenance of such relationships was not against the best interests of the child. It is all about the views of the child—and only the child—at any time.

I have listened to the arguments of the minister, and I will listen to the views of Parliament. If there is not a majority for the measure today, I will withdraw the amendment. However, it is an argument that I will seek to return to in this place.

Liam McArthur (Orkney Islands) (LD)

As I have done throughout the committee stages of the bill, I begin by declaring an interest in that my wife is a director of Relationships Scotland Orkney. That is perhaps less relevant to this set of amendments, but I thought that it would be helpful to have it on the record at the outset.

At stage 2, I was pleased to get support from the committee for my amendment to create a duty on the Scottish ministers to ensure the availability of child advocacy services in section 11 cases. That followed powerful evidence that was heard by the committee about the need to strengthen the so-called infrastructure for taking children’s views. In their written submission, Dr Morrison, Dr Friskney and Professor Tisdall argued:

“The strongest and most consistent request from children and young people in Scotland, who have been involved in contested contact proceedings, it to have a child support worker. Without addressing this now, children’s participation throughout the legal process risks being dealt with inconsistently, on an ad hoc basis and thus marginalised. We recommend provision be put into primary legislation, with the ability to then link developments to other advocacy roles.”

That amendment was passed, but I held off pressing another amendment relating to a proposed review of children’s ability to participate in the decision-making process. Of course, reviewing legislation to check that it actually does what it is intended to do is generally a good and sensible precaution. However, given the concerns that have been expressed about the resourcing of the provisions in the bill, I think that there is a particular need to provide some reassurance to stakeholders that such a review will take place and will look specifically at whether it has facilitated the participation of children in decisions that are made about their future.

As Scottish Women’s Aid said ahead of stage 2, monitoring and review of the bill’s implementation is required to ensure that children’s rights are realised in practice. There was support for that at stage 2, although some concerns were expressed by the minister about the proposed three-year period—as opposed to a five-year period—in my amendment. I have reflected further on that and, although I remain a little concerned that five years opens up the risk of an entire session of Parliament coming and going before any assessment is made, I believe that amendment 48 provides safeguards against that happening. It is perhaps not perfect, but I am confident that colleagues in the next parliamentary session can and will keep ministers’ feet to the fire. In the meantime, I am grateful to the minister and her officials for their engagement on that issue.

Liam Kerr (North East Scotland) (Con)

I remind members that I am a practising solicitor and hold current practising certificates with the Law Society of Scotland and the Law Society of England and Wales.

With the exception of amendment 35, we will vote for all the amendments in group 1. Amendment 35 is clearly well intentioned, as were Alex Cole-Hamilton’s amendments throughout stage 2. However, I am not persuaded that, in reality, it would serve a child’s interests in the way that the member believes that it would. First, a key pillar of the bill is that it seeks to improve a child’s opportunities to provide their own views whenever possible. My concern is that, by emphasising the importance of the child’s views on their

“personal relations with family members”,

amendment 35 risks positioning those views as being more important than any other views that the child might wish to express. My second concern is that, as with other amendments at stage 2, I am not convinced that amendment 35 is necessary, given that section 12 of the bill already includes reference to consideration of the child’s “relationships with other people”.

Given those points, it appears that, at best, amendment 35 is unnecessary and, at worst, it risks creating what Children 1st and Scottish Women’s Aid described as

“an inappropriate ‘hierarchy’ of views”

that any given child might like to express. Therefore, I encourage Alex Cole-Hamilton to withdraw amendment 35. If he does not, we shall vote against amendment 35 but for the other amendments in the group.

James Kelly (Glasgow) (Lab)

Scottish Labour will support all the amendments in group 1.

The Government amendments, lodged by Ash Denham, build on amendments that I lodged at stage 2 in order to give voice to the child’s views in a court hearing. The bill, as originally drafted, was a bit loose. The stage 2 and 3 amendments give more consistency, ensure that a child’s view can be heard and give weight to the mechanism that enables the child to express that view. Therefore, the amendments improve the bill overall.

With regard to Alex Cole-Hamilton’s amendment 35, throughout the process, some campaigners have argued for presumptions in favour of grandparents and shared parenting. I have not supported that approach throughout, but I recognise that the argument that Alex Cole-Hamilton makes in amendment 35 about the child’s views on which family members they wish to maintain contact with. We also support Liam McArthur’s amendment 48, because we believe that a review of children’s participation is essential. Five years is a reasonable timescale.

Fulton MacGregor (Coatbridge and Chryston) (SNP)

I support the Government’s amendments 8 and 12 to 16 and Liam McArthur’s amendment 48. As a member of the Justice Committee, I was clear from the get-go that the bill’s purpose was to put the interests and views of the child at the centre. The minister has listened to concerns that were raised in the committee, and most of the amendments tighten the bill up and—I hope—make it better legislation.

Alex Cole-Hamilton’s amendment 35 is well placed. We heard evidence on the issue during committee meetings. However, the minister’s amendments supersede it and take away any concerns that there might have been in that area, so I respectfully ask him not to press amendment 35.

John Finnie (Highlands and Islands) (Green)

I join other members in supporting all the amendments in the group, except for Mr Cole-Hamilton’s amendment 35, for many of the reasons that have been outlined. I recognise that refinement of the amendment has taken place between stages 2 and 3, but I align myself with the Scottish Women’s Aid and Children 1st briefing that has been alluded to, which speaks of the danger of establishing an “inappropriate hierarchy”, not least because, as the briefing tells us, many children have

“important relationships with other people outside their families”

and the amendment does not define a “family member”. It is important that all the views of the child are taken on board, and for that reason we will not support amendment 35.

Ash Denham

The bill already makes provision for the views of the child to be sought in a range of contexts, and it requires the court to take account of “the child’s important relationships” with people other than parents. That provision has been specifically designed so that it includes people such as grandparents. Alex Cole-Hamilton and I have discussed the issue at length, and I have no doubt that his proposal is well intentioned. However, I do not think that amendment 35 does what Alex Cole-Hamilton thinks it does. Therefore, I recommend that members do not support amendment 35. I note that that seems to be the consensus that has emerged during the debate.

Amendment 8 agreed to.

Amendment 35 not moved.

The Presiding Officer

Group 2 is on matters to be considered in making an order under section 11(1) of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995. Amendment 9, in the name of Rhoda Grant, is grouped with amendments 10, 11 and 26.

Rhoda Grant (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)

Amendment 9 is a technical amendment, which would remove a definition that is no longer required in the bill.

Amendment 10 would amend new section 11ZA(3)(e) of the 1995 act. Instead of providing that the court should have regard to

“the effect of the fact that two or more persons would be required to co-operate with one another with regard to matters affecting the child”,

the section would instead require it to have regard to

“whether it is, or would be, appropriate for an order to require that two or more persons co-operate with one another with regard to matters affecting the child.”

The amendments relate to the protections under new section 11ZA, ensuring that, when making an order under section 11(1) of the 1995 act in the context of domestic abuse, the court must have regard to the impact of making an order requiring two or more persons to co-operate. My reason for promoting the amendments is that domestic abuse can continue to be perpetrated through the use of contact. The court must consider that before asking a survivor to co-operate with an abuser.

Amendment 11 would remove the definition of “person” in new section 11ZA(5), for the purposes of section 11ZA(3)(e). The effect of removing the definition is to require the court to consider whether it is appropriate to require any persons to co-operate with one another as part of an order under section 11 of the 1995 act, rather than consider only co-operation between the types of person mentioned in the definition. That would reflect that the parties to the case who are required by the order to co-operate may not necessarily be the parents. Removal of the definition of “person” in the context of amendment 11 would ensure wider judicial scrutiny of the order’s impact, beyond actions involving only those who are parents of the child in question, or who have parental rights and responsibilities.

We know from those using our specialist domestic abuse services that contact arrangements with family members such as grandparents can often be exploited by perpetrators of domestic abuse to further their abuse. Therefore, placing a duty on the courts to consider the appropriateness of co-operation beyond parents, in order to ensure that children and non-abusing parents are kept safe, would increase the protection afforded to survivors of domestic abuse.

I move amendment 9.

Liam McArthur

Amendment 26 seeks to make equally shared parenting the starting basis for custody orders, but it would not prevent courts from then deciding on the most appropriate split based on the circumstances of each case and, crucially, the best interests of the child.

The intention of amendment 26, which mirrors an amendment that I lodged at stage 2, is certainly not to make shared parenting mandatory; rather, it would require the court to start with that option if one of the parents requests it, before going on to consider any reasons why a different pattern is better for the child or children in question.

I remain firmly of the view that the legislation should do nothing that might dilute the primacy of the best interests of the child in any decisions that are taken on residency and access or on other considerations. I do not understand how requiring the courts to work from the presumption set out in amendment 26 would do that, as the court would still be free to reject that option, either immediately or in due course, depending on the circumstances and facts relevant to the case. Moreover, the presumption of shared parenting is one that exists in other countries that share our determination to prioritise the child’s best interests.

15:45  

My amendment reflects the general benefits for children of shared parenting shown by international research, be that in terms of their social and psychological wellbeing, educational attainment or the avoidance of adverse experiences.

Of course such shared arrangements may not be practical or desirable, but given how rarely courts appear to rule in favour of an equal split in parenting responsibilities, it seems reasonable to ask whether there is already a presumption inherent in the system.

John Finnie

The member will be aware of the position that was adopted in relation to other matters in which it would be unhelpful to have a list. Is what he seeks to do not just part of a list? If we are acting exclusively in the best interests of the child, there would be no need to include that provision, because what applies will already depend on what is in their best interests.

Liam McArthur

John Finnie is right to point to the evidence that we took and some of the considerations that we weighed up during stages 1 and 2.

As I said, given how rarely courts appear to rule in favour of an equal split of parenting responsibility, it seems reasonable to ask whether there are already presumptions in the system that have a bearing. If that is the case, we should acknowledge that, and satisfy ourselves as to whether that is any less detrimental to the principle of acting in a child’s best interests than starting from a presumption of shared parenting.

I am sure that, over recent weeks, we have all been contacted by constituents and others wanting to share the details of the fallout from their relationship breakdowns. None of that is pleasant—it can often be heartbreaking—but nor is it a matter on which we can safely take a definitive view. We cannot be sure that we have all the facts. Therefore, it must be left to the courts, supported by expert advice, with access to all the facts, to make a determination in the best interests of the child. However, why should those facts not be applied after starting from a presumption of shared parenting?

Society quite rightly expects relationships to be based on a more joined and shared parenting model than may have been the case in the past. That recognises not least the benefits to the child or children that come from such an approach. Why should it not be that we work from a similar starting point in the event of that relationship breaking down? Amendment 26 would allow that to happen.

Liam Kerr

I am happy to vote for all the amendments in the group, with the exception of Liam McArthur’s amendment 26.

Again, I understand the motivation behind the amendment—of course we do—and the scenarios that Mr McArthur sets out. However, the welfare of the child is the key consideration. Therefore, in decisions regarding parental responsibilities, the only criterion should be what is in the best interests of that child. Having carefully listened to Mr McArthur’s comments, I know that he gets that. However, acting in the best interests of the child is the thread that weaves through the bill. The committee heard from representatives of Yello!, who said:

“Adults always seem to be given more priority than children, even though it is all supposed to be about the child. We hope that this Bill will change that.”

I worry that amendment 26 will move us away from that basic premise.

I also note the submissions from Children 1st and Scottish Women’s Aid, which are strongly opposed to amendment 26.

For those reasons, I will vote against the amendment.

James Kelly

I support Rhoda Grant’s sensible amendments, which would bring more consistency to the bill as amended at stage 2. I, too, oppose Liam McArthur’s amendment 26. I understand why he lodged it. However, the issue for me is that, when having regard to a shared parenting order, what he proposes would potentially override the views of the child and what is best for them. We will not support the amendment.

Rona Mackay (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (SNP)

I do not support amendment 26, because I consider that it could have adverse consequences for child safety.

In an ideal world, it is preferable for a child to have a happy relationship with both parents, where possible. However, we do not live in an ideal world, and including the provision in the bill would be unwise and possibly dangerous for a number of children.

All research on the matter suggests that a presumption of shared parenting in any high-conflict case is likely to be harmful to the child. A large number of contact cases that end up in court concern reports of domestic abuse, and even those that do not are still likely to be high-conflict cases, given the very fact that the court is involved.

The amendment proposes residence on an “equal basis” as the default solution in every case, unless otherwise agreed. I believe that that would cut across the rights of the child, and I do not believe that it would be in their best interest. We heard powerful evidence in committee from children on their experience of imposed contact, which was harrowing and distressing. Amendment 26 would mean that, on request from any parent, even one who might not be a party to a case, the court must consider ordering residence on an equal basis.

Of course parents should have an equal part in a child’s life, but we cannot prescribe a one-size-fits-all approach, which is the effect that the amendment would have. Every circumstance is different, and child protection is far too important to take risks with.

John Mason (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)

I want to express my sympathy for Liam McArthur’s amendment 26. Over the years, I have had many constituents and, in fact, others from outwith my constituency, one of whom worked at the Scottish Parliament at the time—mainly fathers, but occasionally mothers—tell me their story about how the courts had decided, and the children decided, that the children should have contact with both parents, but that contact had not actually happened.

It seems to me that there has been an imbalance in the court system. Although I have not been heavily involved in the bill, I believe that something has to change. I look to the minister to give us a reassurance that we are moving forward, that we will continue to move forward after the bill is passed and that we will see more cases where both parents have real input in the lives of their children.

Ash Denham

I support amendments 9, 10 and 11, and I am grateful to Rhoda Grant for the constructive engagement that we have had on the subject. Those amendments make technical changes to the provisions that she inserted at stage 2.

Where the court is considering making an order that requires two or more persons to co-operate, amendment 10 will require the court to consider

“whether it is, or would be, appropriate”

to require co-operation. That is wider than sections 11(7D) and (7E) of the 1995 act, and new section 11ZA(3) of that act, which was added at stage 2 of the bill. It meets one of the aims of the bill, which is to

“further protect victims of domestic abuse”,

including children.

Turning to amendment 26 in the name of Liam McArthur, I reassure members that my view is that both parents should be fully involved in a child’s upbringing, as long as that is in the best interests of the child concerned. Currently, parents can ask the court for residence on an equal basis, and a decision will be made in which the welfare of the child is paramount, taking into consideration the views of the child, and with full consideration being given to arguments for and against shared parenting in the particular circumstances of the case.

Amendment 26 proposes residence on an equal basis where requested as the starting point for the court to work from. In my view, that cuts across the approach of the 1995 act, which encourages the court to arrive at a solution that best promotes the welfare of each child, according to their individual circumstances.

The amendment refers only to parents. Although most cases of this nature are between parents, they do not have to be; for example, grandparents may apply for an order. Amendment 26 does not take account of the full range of circumstances that exist in these types of cases. It does not address the stage in the proceedings at which any request must be made, whether the parent requires to be a party to the proceedings or whether it might be open to parents to make repeated requests. In the absence of any attempt to govern the procedure by which such requests might be made, there is a considerable risk of delay in court proceedings with issues arising at a late stage.

A section 11 case might be about contact or about administration of a child’s property and not about residence. Therefore, it might not be appropriate for the court to consider residence in every case, as the court might not have the information necessary to allow it to decide on such questions. The courts already apply a general principle that it will be normally beneficial for children to have an on-going relationship with both parents. The bill strengthens this position by requiring the court to consider in every case the effect of an order on the involvement of the child’s parents in bringing the child up.

I do not consider that amendment 26 is desirable. It cuts across the general principle of section 11 of the 1995 act that the welfare of the child is the paramount consideration. Given those reasons, I ask Liam McArthur not to move amendment 26.

Rhoda Grant

Members will all have dealt with cases in which contact has been used to perpetrate abuse, with disastrous consequences for the abused partner and their children. Even when the child is not abused, their experience of abuse is an adverse childhood experience that impacts on their mental health and self-esteem and damages their life chances. Therefore, there should be a presumption against contact of any kind with an abusive partner when we are looking at child contact.

I will press amendment 9, and I urge Liam McArthur not to move his amendment 26.

Amendment 9 agreed to.

Amendments 10 and 11 moved—[Rhoda Grant]—and agreed to.

Amendments 12 and 13 moved—[Ash Denham]—and agreed to.

Section 1A—Disclosure of information

The Presiding Officer

Group 3 is on the disclosure of information. Amendment 36, in the name of Liam McArthur, is grouped with amendment 46.

Liam McArthur

Amendment 36 and my more substantive amendment 46 respond to concerns that were raised with the committee at stage 1 that, at present, intimate and highly sensitive information that is shared by a child with a third sector organisation can be drawn into court proceedings. That appears to happen even when sharing such information goes against the interests of the child in question, and often without the child even knowing. It is not hard to see how that could fundamentally undermine the trust and confidence of children who engage with third-party organisations at a time when they are feeling vulnerable.

At stage 2, I successfully moved an amendment to address the concern, as did the minister. I am grateful to Ash Denham and her officials for the constructive way in which they have engaged with me since stage 2 to tidy up the provisions and make further necessary changes. The area is sensitive, and I recognise the concerns that the Government had in relation to my amendment at stage 2, notably around the use of the term “paramount consideration” and even some potential ambiguity over which child was being referred to.

I believe that my amendment 46 addresses those concerns, while retaining the core principles and protection that I and other committee colleagues sought to have enshrined in the bill. In particular, those are the inclusion of specific reference to

“the best interests of the child as a primary consideration”,

which is in line with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and ensuring that a child has the opportunity to express their views to the court, which then needs to take those views into account when decisions are made about sharing their information.

In response to those who are anxious about the potential impact on the rights of others involved in any court process, I repeat the assurance from Children 1st and Scottish Women’s Aid that the changes

“will not prevent information from being shared where it is proportionate and relevant to the court.”

They went on:

“Indeed, our organisations strongly believe that proportionate and relevant information-sharing is in a child’s best interests to keep them safe and ensure the courts are equipped with all the details at their disposal to make informed decisions.”

I thank committee colleagues, the minister and of course Children 1st and Scottish Women’s Aid for helping to get us to this point. I hope that the changes will give children the confidence that they need and should have in their conversations with third sector organisations, which often take place at times of real vulnerability.

I move amendment 36.

Liam Kerr

We will vote against both amendments in the group. Amendment 36 is a function of amendment 46, so I will deal with the latter in depth. Our vote against amendment 46 will be based on a semantic point, which may be much more than that. The language used in the amendment is about considering the child’s “best interests”, as opposed to their welfare.

16:00  

My understanding of this area of law is that what is referred to in, for example, the Children’s Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011 and the Adoption and Children (Scotland) Act 2007, what is commonly understood and what has had cases decided around it is the welfare of the child. Hitherto, welfare has been the touchstone, so why the change of language? I am grateful to Mr McArthur for his confirmation that the reason relates to the fact that the UNCRC talks about the best interests of the child, to which I shall return.

In any event, we risk importing new terminology without debate, scrutiny and test. Perhaps I am making a mere semantic point. There might be no difference between the best interests and the welfare of a child but, if that is right, we should not introduce new wording. We should stick with the current wording, because a change at least opens the door to the argument. That cannot be desirable.

On the other hand, what if the terms mean something different? What if “best interests” and the “welfare of a child” are different in law and in practice? We need to be very careful to understand what those changes would mean on a practical level before codifying that in black-letter law.

The safest path is to vote against amendments 36 and 46. I plead, as further authority, that minister Maree Todd confirmed on 4 May that the Government still intends to introduce the UNCRC bill this year. No doubt there will be consultation on the bill and, I presume, on the meaning of “best interests”. Let us take the precautionary principle and wait until then. I shall vote against amendment 46.

Ash Denham

I support amendments 36 and 46. I am grateful to Liam McArthur for the constructive engagement that we have had on the subject, and I am pleased that a consensus position has been reached. I hope that members will join me in supporting the amendments today.

Two competing amendments were lodged to the bill at stage 2. Amendments 36 and 46 remedy the issue by removing sections 1A and 13A from the bill and inserting a new section in their place. The amendments retain elements from, and improve on, each of the sections that were added to the bill at stage 2.

Amendment 46 provides that when the court

“has to decide whether a person should have access to anything in which private information about a child is recorded”,

it

“must regard the best interests of the child as a primary consideration.”

As Mr Kerr noted, the references to “best interests” and “primary consideration” reflect the language of article 3.1 of the UNCRC and the approach that is taken in general comment 15. The use of the words “primary consideration”, as is proposed, achieves a more appropriate balance of rights than was achieved by section 1A.

The amendments go further than section 13A by requiring that the views of the child should be sought using the manner that is preferred by the child. I appreciate that there might be some cases in which that will not be possible in the best interests of the child, although I expect the exemptions to be used only infrequently.

The amendments offer wider protection than was offered by section 1A, which appeared to protect only the child at the centre of the section 11 proceedings. I reassure members that I am already progressing work to ensure that children are informed of how the information that they disclose to a child welfare reporter might be used. Earlier this summer, I shared with key stakeholders a draft of the guidance for children on speaking to child welfare reporters. Once I have a finalised version of the guidance, I will publish it and make it available to children and young people.

I hope that members will join me in supporting amendments 36 and 46, which constitute an important protection for the rights of children whose private information may be used in contact and residence proceedings.

Liam McArthur

I thank the minister for her support and her explanation of the basis for it. I thank Liam Kerr for his comments and for engaging in debate on my amendments. I would never accuse him of semantics. To some extent, the language that is used in my amendments is similar to the language that was used in the amendment that I lodged at stage 2. I do not recall his concerns being raised at that stage. The minister has set out the consistency of approach that has been taken. It is difficult to see how a child’s best interests would not be observed by any measure that adhered to the child’s welfare. The language is embedded in the UNCRC.

I take the point that a fuller integration of the UNCRC into Scots law is proposed, but that is not a justification for kicking the can down the road where there is an opportunity to embed the provision in this bill. Those who gave evidence to the committee were clear about the importance of doing so, not least—as I said earlier—to safeguard the confidence of children and young people in, and their engagement with, third sector organisations at a time of real vulnerability for them. For those reasons, I will press amendment 36.

The Presiding Officer

The question is, that amendment 36 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members: No.

The Presiding Officer

There will be a division. As this is the first division of the afternoon, I will suspend proceedings and we will have a short technical break, not only to summon members to the chamber, but to ensure that members who are participating online are on board the system in order to vote.

16:05 Meeting suspended.  16:15 On resuming—  

The Presiding Officer

Colleagues, we are going to resume proceedings. We are on group 3, on disclosure of information, and Liam McArthur has moved amendment 36. Members indicated that there will be a division.

The question is, that amendment 36 be agreed to. Members may cast their votes now, and they should refresh their screens if they are logged out.

For

Adam, George (Paisley) (SNP)
Adamson, Clare (Motherwell and Wishaw) (SNP)
Allan, Alasdair (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP)
Arthur, Tom (Renfrewshire South) (SNP)
Baillie, Jackie (Dumbarton) (Lab)
Baker, Claire (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)
Beamish, Claudia (South Scotland) (Lab)
Beattie, Colin (Midlothian North and Musselburgh) (SNP)
Bibby, Neil (West Scotland) (Lab)
Boyack, Sarah (Lothian) (Lab)
Brown, Keith (Clackmannanshire and Dunblane) (SNP)
Campbell, Aileen (Clydesdale) (SNP)
Coffey, Willie (Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley) (SNP)
Cole-Hamilton, Alex (Edinburgh Western) (LD)
Constance, Angela (Almond Valley) (SNP)
Crawford, Bruce (Stirling) (SNP)
Cunningham, Roseanna (Perthshire South and Kinross-shire) (SNP)
Denham, Ash (Edinburgh Eastern) (SNP)
Dey, Graeme (Angus South) (SNP)
Doris, Bob (Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn) (SNP)
Dornan, James (Glasgow Cathcart) (SNP)
Ewing, Annabelle (Cowdenbeath) (SNP)
Ewing, Fergus (Inverness and Nairn) (SNP)
Fabiani, Linda (East Kilbride) (SNP)
Fee, Mary (West Scotland) (Lab)
Findlay, Neil (Lothian) (Lab)
Finnie, John (Highlands and Islands) (Green)
FitzPatrick, Joe (Dundee City West) (SNP)
Forbes, Kate (Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch) (SNP)
Freeman, Jeane (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley) (SNP)
Gibson, Kenneth (Cunninghame North) (SNP)
Gougeon, Mairi (Angus North and Mearns) (SNP)
Grahame, Christine (Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale) (SNP)
Grant, Rhoda (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)
Gray, Iain (East Lothian) (Lab)
Greer, Ross (West Scotland) (Green)
Griffin, Mark (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Harper, Emma (South Scotland) (SNP)
Harvie, Patrick (Glasgow) (Green)
Hepburn, Jamie (Cumbernauld and Kilsyth) (SNP)
Hyslop, Fiona (Linlithgow) (SNP)
Johnson, Daniel (Edinburgh Southern) (Lab)
Johnstone, Alison (Lothian) (Green)
Kelly, James (Glasgow) (Lab)
Kidd, Bill (Glasgow Anniesland) (SNP)
Lamont, Johann (Glasgow) (Lab)
Lennon, Monica (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Leonard, Richard (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Lochhead, Richard (Moray) (SNP)
Lyle, Richard (Uddingston and Bellshill) (SNP)
MacDonald, Angus (Falkirk East) (SNP)
MacDonald, Gordon (Edinburgh Pentlands) (SNP)
Macdonald, Lewis (North East Scotland) (Lab)
MacGregor, Fulton (Coatbridge and Chryston) (SNP)
Mackay, Rona (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (SNP)
Macpherson, Ben (Edinburgh Northern and Leith) (SNP)
Maguire, Ruth (Cunninghame South) (SNP)
Martin, Gillian (Aberdeenshire East) (SNP)
Mason, John (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)
McAlpine, Joan (South Scotland) (SNP)
McArthur, Liam (Orkney Islands) (LD)
McKee, Ivan (Glasgow Provan) (SNP)
McKelvie, Christina (Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse) (SNP)
McNeill, Pauline (Glasgow) (Lab)
Neil, Alex (Airdrie and Shotts) (SNP)
Paterson, Gil (Clydebank and Milngavie) (SNP)
Rennie, Willie (North East Fife) (LD)
Robison, Shona (Dundee City East) (SNP)
Ross, Gail (Caithness, Sutherland and Ross) (SNP)
Rowley, Alex (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)
Rumbles, Mike (North East Scotland) (LD)
Ruskell, Mark (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Green)
Sarwar, Anas (Glasgow) (Lab)
Smyth, Colin (South Scotland) (Lab)
Somerville, Shirley-Anne (Dunfermline) (SNP)
Stevenson, Stewart (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)
Stewart, David (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)
Stewart, Kevin (Aberdeen Central) (SNP)
Todd, Maree (Highlands and Islands) (SNP)
Torrance, David (Kirkcaldy) (SNP)
Watt, Maureen (Aberdeen South and North Kincardine) (SNP)
Wheelhouse, Paul (South Scotland) (SNP)
White, Sandra (Glasgow Kelvin) (SNP)
Wightman, Andy (Lothian) (Green)
Wishart, Beatrice (Shetland Islands) (LD)
Yousaf, Humza (Glasgow Pollok) (SNP)

Against

Balfour, Jeremy (Lothian) (Con)
Ballantyne, Michelle (South Scotland) (Con)
Bowman, Bill (North East Scotland) (Con)
Briggs, Miles (Lothian) (Con)
Burnett, Alexander (Aberdeenshire West) (Con)
Cameron, Donald (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Carlaw, Jackson (Eastwood) (Con)
Carson, Finlay (Galloway and West Dumfries) (Con)
Chapman, Peter (North East Scotland) (Con)
Corry, Maurice (West Scotland) (Con)
Davidson, Ruth (Edinburgh Central) (Con)
Fraser, Murdo (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Golden, Maurice (West Scotland) (Con)
Greene, Jamie (West Scotland) (Con)
Halcro Johnston, Jamie (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Kerr, Liam (North East Scotland) (Con)
Lindhurst, Gordon (Lothian) (Con)
Lockhart, Dean (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Mason, Tom (North East Scotland) (Con)
Matheson, Michael (Falkirk West) (SNP)
Mitchell, Margaret (Central Scotland) (Con)
Mundell, Oliver (Dumfriesshire) (Con)
Scott, John (Ayr) (Con)
Simpson, Graham (Central Scotland) (Con)
Smith, Elaine (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Smith, Liz (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Stewart, Alexander (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Tomkins, Adam (Glasgow) (Con)
Wells, Annie (Glasgow) (Con)
Whittle, Brian (South Scotland) (Con)

Abstentions

McDonald, Mark (Aberdeen Donside) (Ind)

The Presiding Officer

The result of the division is: For 86, Against 30, Abstentions 1.

Amendment 36 agreed to.

The Minister for Europe and International Development (Jenny Gilruth)

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. I was not able to vote.

The Presiding Officer

Can you indicate to the chamber which way you were going to vote?

Jenny Gilruth

For the amendment.

The Presiding Officer

The vote was overwhelming in favour, but Jenny Gilruth’s vote has now been noted for the record.

The Minister for Mental Health (Clare Haughey)

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. I was not able to vote either.

The Presiding Officer

Would you like to indicate which way you were going to vote?

Clare Haughey

I was going to vote in favour of the amendment.

The Presiding Officer

Clare Haughey also voted yes.

Stuart McMillan (Greenock and Inverclyde) (SNP)

On a point of order, Presiding Officer.

Members: Oh!

The Presiding Officer

It is important at this stage. Let us hear Mr McMillan, please.

Stuart McMillan

It is the same situation for me. I would have voted for the amendment.

The Presiding Officer

Thank you. That has also been noted for the record.

From now on, we will not have a technical break unless there is widespread disapproval and people are not able to vote. It is important that members keep their screens open and refreshed; if the window goes away, members should log back in and refresh the screen, and it should come back on again. Members have the code and should be able to vote; it is now up to members to be able to use the system.

I will also add for the record that Rachael Hamilton, who has been joining us remotely, was unable to vote, and she wanted to vote against the amendment.

Section 2—Proceedings under Adoption and Children (Scotland) Act 2007

Amendments 14 and 15 moved—[Ash Denham]—and agreed to.

Section 3—Proceedings under Children’s Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011

Amendment 16 moved—[Ash Denham]—and agreed to.

After section 4

The Presiding Officer

Group 4 is on vulnerable witnesses and vulnerable parties. Amendment 37, in the name of the minister, is grouped with amendments 38 and 39.

Ash Denham

Amendments 37 to 39 seek to provide further protection to vulnerable parties in evidential and non-evidential hearings in particular child welfare hearings, and to vulnerable witnesses when a case under section 11 of the 1995 act reaches proof.

When a person is deemed to be a vulnerable witness by virtue of section 11B of the Vulnerable Witnesses (Scotland) Act 2004 as inserted by section 4 of the bill, amendment 37 will require the court, before the proof or any other hearing at which the witness is to give evidence, to make an order authorising the use of a special measure or to make an order that the witness is to give evidence without the benefit of a special measure. That will ensure that consideration of special measures does not depend on the party lodging a vulnerable witness application or the court considering the matter of its own volition.

A party may be deemed to be a vulnerable witness if there is in force a non-harassment order, an interdict or any similar order or remedy that has been granted by a court that prohibits certain conduct towards the person by a party to the proceedings; if a “relevant offence” has been committed against the person and a party to the proceedings has been convicted of committing it; or if a party to the proceedings is being prosecuted for committing a “relevant offence” against the person.

Where a party would meet the criteria to be deemed to be a vulnerable witness if they were to give evidence, amendment 38 will require the court to order the use of any special measure that the party requests, or to order the use of a special measure that the court considers appropriate and explain why the preferred method is not being used, or give reasons for not ordering the use of special measures. Special measures can include the use of screens, giving evidence by live videolink and having a support attending with a party.

Amendment 39 is a consequential amendment to remove the now superfluous reference to

“in relation to a party”

from the vulnerable party provisions.

If amendments 37 to 39 are agreed to, I propose to work with stakeholders such as Scottish Women’s Aid in preparing a policy paper for the Scottish Civil Justice Council’s family law committee on any changes to court rules that might be necessary. The amendments build on provisions in sections 4 and 5 of the bill in relation to prohibition of personal conduct of a case and vulnerable parties in child welfare hearings. I hope that members across the chamber will agree with me that it is important to ensure that vulnerable parties and witnesses are protected.

I move amendment 37.

Amendment 37 agreed to.

Section 7—Vulnerable parties

Amendments 38 and 39 moved—[Ash Denham]—and agreed to.

Section 8—Establishment of register

The Presiding Officer

Group 5 is on child welfare reporters: qualifications and experience. Amendment 40, in the name of Liam McArthur, is grouped with amendments 1 and 2.

Liam McArthur

Amendment 40, which again reflects an amendment that I lodged at stage 2, would ensure that the role of child welfare reporter is carried out by appropriately qualified and registered social workers, reflecting practice in other parts of the United Kingdom.

I am aware of the suggestion that my lodging of amendment 40 might constitute a conflict of interests, because of my wife’s role with Relationships Scotland Orkney. I fail to see how that is the case any more than it might be a conflict of interests for those with connections to the legal profession to oppose my amendment, but I am happy to remind the chamber of that interest nonetheless.

As colleagues will be aware, at present the vast majority—around 90 per cent—of child welfare reports are carried out by lawyers. As I acknowledged at stage 2, there are many lawyers who have built up a wealth of experience in this area, and I have no doubt that they bring a range of skills and expertise to the task, not least in the gathering of evidence, and an understanding of the court process.

However, assessing a child’s welfare is complex and requires different skills. As the Scottish Association of Social Workers highlights,

“Children who are the subject of Child Welfare Reports are often the silent victims of their parents’ acrimony and inability to reach agreement about their future wellbeing, safety and security through the rest of their childhood. They will have listened to their parents argue, they will have wanted the arguing to stop, they will often have divided loyalties with both parents whom they love but may be frightened to say so, and they have often learnt that being silent is the way to cope ... The skills that are needed in helping children talk and for their views to be heard are complex and take time to develop; particularly understanding the dynamics that happen in families and between adults and children.”

The association concludes:

“We are concerned that children involved in this process are currently not getting the support they need to help them understand the court process and decisions, and are assessed by professionals who do not have the qualifications required to do this sensibly whilst also being aware of complex issues such as domestic abuse, substance misuse, trauma, parenting capacity and parental influence.”

That point is reinforced by Andrew Smith QC in a briefing circulated ahead of our debate, in which he says:

“Being a lawyer does not make you good at investigations, especially where children are involved. In fact, I suppose it is arguable that it should disqualify you, as the job of a lawyer is to plead a case from one side or the other and not to be neutral ... the most important thing from everyone’s point of view is that any person appointed to carry out a report is properly trained in child reviewing; that their reports are transparent as to why findings are reached and fact-based; that their decisions can be reviewed if necessary by complaint; and that they can be removed from the register of approved reporters for failings.”

I recognise that such a dramatic change from what is in place at present is difficult to conceive. I understand the reaction of lawyers, who may feel that amendment 40 devalues their skills or questions their motives. I certainly do neither.

I appreciate the concerns that have been expressed about how, in practice, the new burden on the social work profession might be shouldered without creating any delays in the process that could prove damaging to the welfare of a young child. Yet, can we honestly say that, if we were constructing a system from first principles and with the intention of putting the welfare of the child at the centre of that process, we would envisage such a role being taken on by lawyers rather than by those with a background in social work?

I have little expectation that amendment 40 will gain support. I have sought to manage any expectations about that. However, the issue demands consideration by the Parliament and I look forward to hearing the views of colleagues and of the minister.

I move amendment 40.

Neil Findlay (Lothian) (Lab)

I will listen carefully to what the minister has to say in response to the amendments in my name before I decide whether to press them.

A child welfare reporter can be a stranger to a child. They are often paid to carry out the role, and may only have met the child or family once. The reporter, despite their training, may not have any real experience of dealing with children, except in that role.

A child is unlikely to speak to a complete stranger about a perhaps complex and potentially frightening relationship with one of their parents. There should be a system of professional welfare reporting, carried out by those who have worked with children and who fully know the law concerning children’s rights. That could be a children’s rights officer or another named professional. A constituent of mine who brought a petition on the subject to Parliament believes that solicitors should not be the people to perform the role.

Regarding amendment 2, I think that it is important that those who have experienced the worst, and the best, of the system should have the opportunity to shape any changes to it. We must consider the changes from the perspective of the people who are involved in the system, particularly children and their parents.

Children are at the centre of the system of contact. Therefore, changes must be made with their interests at heart. The views of young people can be overlooked, and we must not allow that to happen in the bill. Children can express a view about what they do or do not like, or about what upsets or scares them. Adults who have experienced trauma or domestic abuse at the hands of a partner who is party to a court order must also be able to shape the bill and any related regulations.

All that amendment 1 seeks to do is to ensure that that happens and that, for the sake of all who use it, the system is as user friendly and child friendly as possible.

16:30  

Liam Kerr

We will vote against all the amendments in the group.

I will deal with amendments 1 and 2 briefly. We understand that a full consultation on child welfare reporters is planned and imminent. No doubt the minister will speak to that, but the most recent reference to the matter that I could find is a letter of 21 May 2020 from the minister, in which it is dealt with over several pages.

The substantive point that I want to make is about amendment 40, which provides that only a social worker may be appointed as a child welfare reporter. The amendment has attracted many representations, which I have taken time to consider. I understand the point that is being made and I listened carefully to Mr McArthur’s representations, but I am persuaded to vote against the amendment for several reasons.

First, I am concerned about the implications for resources and the capacity of local authorities. What impact might the approach have on timescales, progression and the impact of the work that social workers do? I am led to believe that sheriffs frequently request reports to be completed within a very short timescale, which I worry could be difficult for social workers with a heavy workload.

On that point, I note that we have been told in representations that about 90 per cent of child welfare reporters are lawyers. It would be very difficult if we lost that pool of expertise by limiting the role to social workers.

I also note the Law Society’s point that a sheriff already has the power to call for a social work report in a child welfare case. It argues that what is proposed in the amendment could reduce the sheriff’s options. My feeling is that it is consistent with the “welfare of the child” ethos to ensure that the sheriff has the most options available to them to suit individual circumstances.

I understand that the consultation on the bill did not mention restricting qualification for the role to social workers only; rather, it mentioned the intention to regulate the solicitors and other registered people who undertake the duties nationally, and standardise the qualification. I would be very reluctant to legislate in the area without hearing representations on the matter.

Social Work Scotland provided a considered submission yesterday, in which it says that it opposes amendment 40. I find that particularly persuasive, not least given its point that no detailed analysis has been done to ascertain whether the proposal is viable. On that basis, we will vote against the amendment.

Rona Mackay

I rise to speak against amendment 40. It would be far too prescriptive and, to be frank, unrealistic for all child welfare reporters to be social workers. It is true that, currently, 90 per cent of welfare reporters are lawyers, and that needs to be addressed, but to agree to the amendment would be to shift the balance entirely in the other direction and would be out of proportion with what is required and achievable.

The Government believes in getting the right balance of lawyers and non-lawyers through child-focused training for all who undertake the role, regardless of their professional background. The key aim is for reporters to have the necessary skills and experience. I know of many family court lawyers who have a wonderful understanding of working with children and are incredibly skilled. We do not want to lose that.

Some social workers may not have all the necessary qualifications and experience of engaging with young people. In addition, there is the question of capacity within the resources of social work and the pressure that would be caused on an already overworked profession.

The amendment is not supported by Social Work Scotland, the Family Law Association, Scottish Women’s Aid, Children 1st, the Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland, Shared Parenting Scotland or the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service.

I support a system of enhanced training for people from a wide variety of professional backgrounds who engage with children, which is what the Government proposes.

James Kelly

I will speak against amendment 40, in the name of Liam McArthur. I support amendments 1 and 2, in the name of Neil Findlay.

The starting position in the debate on the current group of amendments on the role of child welfare reporters must be that we need to ensure that there is an adequate pool of suitably qualified individuals to best service children’s needs. Regrettably, amendment 40 would limit that pool and reduce the number of people who were available. There would be significant resource implications if the amendment was agreed to.

I place particular weight on the submission that we received yesterday from Social Work Scotland, which opposes amendment 40. I do not think that the amendment is helpful.

The approach that Neil Findlay adopts in amendments 1 and 2 is a more prudent one, in that it acknowledges the importance of opening up the role to suitable individuals and, as he said in his speech, those with lived experience. We need to get the right people who are ready to serve the child. Restricting the role only to social workers would have an adverse effect, so Scottish Labour opposes amendment 40 and supports amendments 1 and 2.

John Finnie

Likewise, Scottish Green members will not support amendment 40.

The debate has been useful. It would be wrong to characterise it as social workers versus lawyers. I have met representatives of both groups, and the Justice Committee had the pleasure of hearing from Yello!, the group of young survivors, which reported—I am sure that this will be repeated again and again—that their words were not only misunderstood, but led to the group being misrepresented.

I do not think that registration is sufficient in itself. I declare an interest, in that family members are, or have been, social workers. Undoubtedly, social workers will have the qualifications but, as others have said, some may not have the experience. For instance, I cannot imagine that a social worker who has spent an entire career dealing with adults and criminal justice would necessarily have that level of engagement—although I am not saying that they would not—but this is about listening, and understanding child development.

The development of regulations is the means by which all those people should have their input, so that the proper people, whoever they may be, are in place.

We will not support Neil Findlay’s amendment 1, but will support his amendment 2, because it is pertinent to have regard to issues such as domestic abuse and court-ordered contact, not least because of the pernicious impact that coercive control and behaviour can have on getting the correct information from a child, however talented someone is.

Fulton MacGregor

I have quite a lot of sympathy with Liam McArthur’s amendment 40, but I think that the bill takes us in the right direction. The point came up quite a lot in committee that we should make sure that more social workers do reports, rather than that all reports should be done by social workers. I think that that point has been made.

I also draw members’ attention to my entry in the register of interests.

The idea behind amendment 40 is right, but there are quite a lot of unanswered questions. Would it be every sort of social worker, or, as I think Rona Mackay suggested, would it be more likely to be child protection social workers? What pressure would that put on social work resources? It is telling that Social Work Scotland has said that it does not agree with the amendment.

We need to look at turning the tide a wee bit, to have more social workers—but not solely social workers—doing the welfare reports. Some lawyers are very good, and have spent their careers dedicated to the field and training in it.

Unfortunately, therefore, I cannot support the amendment, but I thank Liam McArthur for giving it the airing that it has received at stages 2 and 3, and for putting social work on such a forward footing in the bill. I have a lot of sympathy with the amendment.

I also have a lot of sympathy with Neil Findlay’s amendments 1 and 2, which represent a commonsense approach to things that should be done. My view, however, is that those things should be arranged through practice. For example, if a child welfare reporter does not know the child, they should do at least an introductory visit, possibly two. Those are practice issues for social work departments, legal departments and others, and I therefore think that they are not required in the bill.

Ash Denham

The Scottish Government does not support many amendments in group 5.

Amendment 40, in the name of Liam MacArthur, would allow only social workers who were registered with the Scottish Social Services Council to be child welfare reporters. My officials have spoken to a number of key organisations that have expressed concern about the amendment.

Around 90 per cent of child welfare reporters are lawyers and I remain unconvinced that there is a justification for limiting that role to social workers. In my view, the most important factor for any child welfare reporter is that they meet the required standards in training and qualifications, regardless of their professional background.

Amendment 40 would also exclude child psychologists, child psychiatrists and other family support workers—who may have the necessary qualifications and experience to be a child welfare reporter—unless they were also social workers.

It would also exclude retired social workers, who may also have the required skills to act as a child welfare reporter. It is also not clear whether the social work sector has the capacity to take the role on. Capacity issues could lead to delays in producing child welfare reports, which could, in turn, delay the case overall. That would not be in the best interests of the child concerned.

I am, however, keen to encourage more non-lawyers to become child welfare reporters, as diversity of experience in the role of child welfare reporter would be beneficial to the process. I give the member my assurance that those considerations will be taken into account as the regulations on child welfare reporters are developed.

As regards amendment 1, in the name of Neil Findlay, an identical amendment was not supported by the Justice Committee at stage 2 and it remains unclear to me what the amendment is intended to do. If a person has the requisite skills and experience to be included on the register of child welfare reporters, then they can be included on that register. I am not clear how the person’s professional knowledge of a particular child can be relevant to the question whether a person could be registered as a child welfare reporter generally.

I take the member’s point that a professional who has already worked with a child may be well placed to write a child welfare report in relation to that child, although it should not be overlooked that there might also be cases in which the child or other members of the family might have a strong preference that somebody new is brought in to do that. The issue that the legislation is dealing with is not who will write a report in relation to a specific child but who can be registered to be a child welfare reporter. It would obviously be unworkable to have a system under which, in effect, there would be a separate register of child welfare reporters for every child in relation to whom a child welfare report might ever need to be produced.

For the reasons outlined, I remain unable to support amendment 1 and urge members to reject it.

Regarding amendment 2, however, I see the point that Neil Findlay is making. When consulting on draft regulations, any Government will of course need to ensure that people with lived experience of court-ordered contact and domestic abuse give us their valuable insights. I am therefore happy to support amendment 2.

The Presiding Officer

I call Liam McArthur to wind up and to press or withdraw amendment 40.

Liam McArthur

I thank all colleagues for their contributions to the debate. Liam Kerr indicated that amendment 40 attracted many representations, which I think was delphically put. Clearly, a primary concern was resourcing and capacity, although it is fair to say, as I did at stage 2, that the proposal would not be confined to social workers in council social work departments. Evidence from elsewhere in the UK suggests that the delays that have been referred to were not necessarily experienced. In terms of the original consultation on the proposal, questions have been raised about the extent of the engagement from those in the social work sector, at the earliest stages in the bill’s development.

Both Rona Mackay and James Kelly drew on points in relation to capacity and made the important point that, however the amendment lands, we need to extend the pool of suitably qualified professionals that are available to the court to produce the reports. Fulton McGregor made the point that that needs to include a greater level of social work engagement.

I thank John Finnie particularly for reminding members that what is proposed is not about pitting social workers against lawyers; they bring different skill sets and they are both tremendously valued. However, I have to note that, given the positions taken by Social Work Scotland and the Scottish Association of Social Work, it appears that there is a disagreement between those two elements of the same sector.

John Finnie

I commend the social work representatives for coming forward, as that is what those in a workplace-representative body should do, and Social Work Scotland’s position is perhaps disappointing. Does the member consider that, given that we hope to move to a barnahus model, a wider range of people could be involved, including police officers?

Liam McArthur

John Finnie makes an entirely fair point. There is a tendency for us to focus on the legislation in front of us, but he is right that if we are to properly move towards a barnahus model, we will need to draw on a wider range of suitably qualified and trained professionals. It has been valuable that we have aired and debated the issues in the chamber and not simply at committee. However, on the basis of the responses to the amendment, I will not press it.

Amendment 40, by agreement, withdrawn.

Amendment 1 moved—[Neil Findlay].

The Presiding Officer

The question is, that amendment 1 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members: No.

The Presiding Officer

There will be a division. This will be a one-minute division. I do not intend to suspend proceedings. If you have difficulty voting, put your hand up and try to refresh your screen and log back in; it is as simple as that and there is plenty of time to do so in one minute. Similarly, if members who are voting online have difficulties, please indicate that online. Members may now vote on amendment 1. [Interruption.] Give it a chance.

Put your hand up if you cannot vote.

I will temporarily suspend the meeting.

16:45 Meeting suspended.  16:54 On resuming—  

The Presiding Officer

Apologies for the short suspension. We think that we have resolved the technical difficulty. We were in the middle of a division on amendment 1. Members may cast their votes now.

For

Baillie, Jackie (Dumbarton) (Lab)
Baker, Claire (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)
Beamish, Claudia (South Scotland) (Lab)
Bibby, Neil (West Scotland) (Lab)
Boyack, Sarah (Lothian) (Lab)
Fee, Mary (West Scotland) (Lab)
Findlay, Neil (Lothian) (Lab)
Grant, Rhoda (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)
Gray, Iain (East Lothian) (Lab)
Griffin, Mark (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Johnson, Daniel (Edinburgh Southern) (Lab)
Kelly, James (Glasgow) (Lab)
Lamont, Johann (Glasgow) (Lab)
Lennon, Monica (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Leonard, Richard (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Macdonald, Lewis (North East Scotland) (Lab)
McDonald, Mark (Aberdeen Donside) (Ind)
McNeill, Pauline (Glasgow) (Lab)
Rowley, Alex (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)
Sarwar, Anas (Glasgow) (Lab)
Smith, Elaine (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Smyth, Colin (South Scotland) (Lab)
Stewart, David (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)

Against

Adam, George (Paisley) (SNP)
Adamson, Clare (Motherwell and Wishaw) (SNP)
Allan, Dr Alasdair (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP)
Arthur, Tom (Renfrewshire South) (SNP)
Balfour, Jeremy (Lothian) (Con)
Ballantyne, Michelle (South Scotland) (Con)
Beattie, Colin (Midlothian North and Musselburgh) (SNP)
Bowman, Bill (North East Scotland) (Con)
Briggs, Miles (Lothian) (Con)
Brown, Keith (Clackmannanshire and Dunblane) (SNP)
Burnett, Alexander (Aberdeenshire West) (Con)
Cameron, Donald (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Campbell, Aileen (Clydesdale) (SNP)
Carlaw, Jackson (Eastwood) (Con)
Carson, Finlay (Galloway and West Dumfries) (Con)
Chapman, Peter (North East Scotland) (Con)
Coffey, Willie (Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley) (SNP)
Cole-Hamilton, Alex (Edinburgh Western) (LD)
Constance, Angela (Almond Valley) (SNP)
Corry, Maurice (West Scotland) (Con)
Crawford, Bruce (Stirling) (SNP)
Cunningham, Roseanna (Perthshire South and Kinross-shire) (SNP)
Davidson, Ruth (Edinburgh Central) (Con)
Denham, Ash (Edinburgh Eastern) (SNP)
Dey, Graeme (Angus South) (SNP)
Doris, Bob (Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn) (SNP)
Dornan, James (Glasgow Cathcart) (SNP)
Ewing, Annabelle (Cowdenbeath) (SNP)
Ewing, Fergus (Inverness and Nairn) (SNP)
Fabiani, Linda (East Kilbride) (SNP)
Finnie, John (Highlands and Islands) (Green)
FitzPatrick, Joe (Dundee City West) (SNP)
Forbes, Kate (Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch) (SNP)
Fraser, Murdo (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Freeman, Jeane (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley) (SNP)
Gibson, Kenneth (Cunninghame North) (SNP)
Gilruth, Jenny (Mid Fife and Glenrothes) (SNP)
Golden, Maurice (West Scotland) (Con)
Gougeon, Mairi (Angus North and Mearns) (SNP)
Grahame, Christine (Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale) (SNP)
Greene, Jamie (West Scotland) (Con)
Greer, Ross (West Scotland) (Green)
Hamilton, Rachael (Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire) (Con)
Harper, Emma (South Scotland) (SNP)
Harvie, Patrick (Glasgow) (Green)
Haughey, Clare (Rutherglen) (SNP)
Hepburn, Jamie (Cumbernauld and Kilsyth) (SNP)
Hyslop, Fiona (Linlithgow) (SNP)
Halcro Johnston, Jamie (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Johnstone, Alison (Lothian) (Green)
Kerr, Liam (North East Scotland) (Con)
Kidd, Bill (Glasgow Anniesland) (SNP)
Lindhurst, Gordon (Lothian) (Con)
Lochhead, Richard (Moray) (SNP)
Lockhart, Dean (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Lyle, Richard (Uddingston and Bellshill) (SNP)
MacDonald, Angus (Falkirk East) (SNP)
MacDonald, Gordon (Edinburgh Pentlands) (SNP)
MacGregor, Fulton (Coatbridge and Chryston) (SNP)
Mackay, Rona (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (SNP)
Macpherson, Ben (Edinburgh Northern and Leith) (SNP)
Maguire, Ruth (Cunninghame South) (SNP)
Martin, Gillian (Aberdeenshire East) (SNP)
Mason, John (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)
Mason, Tom (North East Scotland) (Con)
Matheson, Michael (Falkirk West) (SNP)
McAlpine, Joan (South Scotland) (SNP)
McArthur, Liam (Orkney Islands) (LD)
McKee, Ivan (Glasgow Provan) (SNP)
McKelvie, Christina (Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse) (SNP)
McMillan, Stuart (Greenock and Inverclyde) (SNP)
Mitchell, Margaret (Central Scotland) (Con)
Mundell, Oliver (Dumfriesshire) (Con)
Neil, Alex (Airdrie and Shotts) (SNP)
Paterson, Gil (Clydebank and Milngavie) (SNP)
Rennie, Willie (North East Fife) (LD)
Robison, Shona (Dundee City East) (SNP)
Ross, Gail (Caithness, Sutherland and Ross) (SNP)
Rumbles, Mike (North East Scotland) (LD)
Ruskell, Mark (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Green)
Scott, John (Ayr) (Con)
Simpson, Graham (Central Scotland) (Con)
Smith, Liz (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Somerville, Shirley-Anne (Dunfermline) (SNP)
Stevenson, Stewart (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)
Stewart, Alexander (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Stewart, Kevin (Aberdeen Central) (SNP)
Todd, Maree (Highlands and Islands) (SNP)
Tomkins, Adam (Glasgow) (Con)
Torrance, David (Kirkcaldy) (SNP)
Watt, Maureen (Aberdeen South and North Kincardine) (SNP)
Wells, Annie (Glasgow) (Con)
Wheelhouse, Paul (South Scotland) (SNP)
White, Sandra (Glasgow Kelvin) (SNP)
Whittle, Brian (South Scotland) (Con)
Wightman, Andy (Lothian) (Green)
Wishart, Beatrice (Shetland Islands) (LD)
Yousaf, Humza (Glasgow Pollok) (SNP)

The Presiding Officer

The result of the division is: For 23, Against 98, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 1 disagreed to.

Amendment 2 moved—[Neil Findlay].

The Presiding Officer

The question is, that amendment 2 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members: No.

The Presiding Officer

There will be a division.

For

Adam, George (Paisley) (SNP)
Adamson, Clare (Motherwell and Wishaw) (SNP)
Allan, Dr Alasdair (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP)
Arthur, Tom (Renfrewshire South) (SNP)
Baillie, Jackie (Dumbarton) (Lab)
Baker, Claire (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)
Beamish, Claudia (South Scotland) (Lab)
Beattie, Colin (Midlothian North and Musselburgh) (SNP)
Bibby, Neil (West Scotland) (Lab)
Boyack, Sarah (Lothian) (Lab)
Brown, Keith (Clackmannanshire and Dunblane) (SNP)
Campbell, Aileen (Clydesdale) (SNP)
Coffey, Willie (Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley) (SNP)
Cole-Hamilton, Alex (Edinburgh Western) (LD)
Constance, Angela (Almond Valley) (SNP)
Crawford, Bruce (Stirling) (SNP)
Cunningham, Roseanna (Perthshire South and Kinross-shire) (SNP)
Denham, Ash (Edinburgh Eastern) (SNP)
Dey, Graeme (Angus South) (SNP)
Doris, Bob (Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn) (SNP)
Dornan, James (Glasgow Cathcart) (SNP)
Ewing, Annabelle (Cowdenbeath) (SNP)
Ewing, Fergus (Inverness and Nairn) (SNP)
Fabiani, Linda (East Kilbride) (SNP)
Fee, Mary (West Scotland) (Lab)
Findlay, Neil (Lothian) (Lab)
Finnie, John (Highlands and Islands) (Green)
FitzPatrick, Joe (Dundee City West) (SNP)
Forbes, Kate (Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch) (SNP)
Freeman, Jeane (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley) (SNP)
Gibson, Kenneth (Cunninghame North) (SNP)
Gilruth, Jenny (Mid Fife and Glenrothes) (SNP)
Gougeon, Mairi (Angus North and Mearns) (SNP)
Grahame, Christine (Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale) (SNP)
Grant, Rhoda (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)
Gray, Iain (East Lothian) (Lab)
Greer, Ross (West Scotland) (Green)
Griffin, Mark (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Harper, Emma (South Scotland) (SNP)
Harvie, Patrick (Glasgow) (Green)
Haughey, Clare (Rutherglen) (SNP)
Hepburn, Jamie (Cumbernauld and Kilsyth) (SNP)
Hyslop, Fiona (Linlithgow) (SNP)
Johnson, Daniel (Edinburgh Southern) (Lab)
Johnstone, Alison (Lothian) (Green)
Kelly, James (Glasgow) (Lab)
Kidd, Bill (Glasgow Anniesland) (SNP)
Lamont, Johann (Glasgow) (Lab)
Lennon, Monica (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Leonard, Richard (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Lyle, Richard (Uddingston and Bellshill) (SNP)
MacDonald, Angus (Falkirk East) (SNP)
MacDonald, Gordon (Edinburgh Pentlands) (SNP)
Macdonald, Lewis (North East Scotland) (Lab)
MacGregor, Fulton (Coatbridge and Chryston) (SNP)
Mackay, Rona (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (SNP)
Macpherson, Ben (Edinburgh Northern and Leith) (SNP)
Maguire, Ruth (Cunninghame South) (SNP)
Martin, Gillian (Aberdeenshire East) (SNP)
Mason, John (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)
Matheson, Michael (Falkirk West) (SNP)
McAlpine, Joan (South Scotland) (SNP)
McArthur, Liam (Orkney Islands) (LD)
McDonald, Mark (Aberdeen Donside) (Ind)
McKee, Ivan (Glasgow Provan) (SNP)
McKelvie, Christina (Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse) (SNP)
McMillan, Stuart (Greenock and Inverclyde) (SNP)
McNeill, Pauline (Glasgow) (Lab)
Neil, Alex (Airdrie and Shotts) (SNP)
Paterson, Gil (Clydebank and Milngavie) (SNP)
Rennie, Willie (North East Fife) (LD)
Robison, Shona (Dundee City East) (SNP)
Ross, Gail (Caithness, Sutherland and Ross) (SNP)
Rowley, Alex (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)
Rumbles, Mike (North East Scotland) (LD)
Ruskell, Mark (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Green)
Sarwar, Anas (Glasgow) (Lab)
Smith, Elaine (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Smyth, Colin (South Scotland) (Lab)
Somerville, Shirley-Anne (Dunfermline) (SNP)
Stevenson, Stewart (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)
Stewart, David (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)
Stewart, Kevin (Aberdeen Central) (SNP)
Todd, Maree (Highlands and Islands) (SNP)
Torrance, David (Kirkcaldy) (SNP)
Watt, Maureen (Aberdeen South and North Kincardine) (SNP)
Wheelhouse, Paul (South Scotland) (SNP)
White, Sandra (Glasgow Kelvin) (SNP)
Wightman, Andy (Lothian) (Green)
Wishart, Beatrice (Shetland Islands) (LD)
Yousaf, Humza (Glasgow Pollok) (SNP)

Against

Balfour, Jeremy (Lothian) (Con)
Ballantyne, Michelle (South Scotland) (Con)
Bowman, Bill (North East Scotland) (Con)
Briggs, Miles (Lothian) (Con)
Burnett, Alexander (Aberdeenshire West) (Con)
Cameron, Donald (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Carlaw, Jackson (Eastwood) (Con)
Carson, Finlay (Galloway and West Dumfries) (Con)
Chapman, Peter (North East Scotland) (Con)
Corry, Maurice (West Scotland) (Con)
Davidson, Ruth (Edinburgh Central) (Con)
Fraser, Murdo (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Golden, Maurice (West Scotland) (Con)
Greene, Jamie (West Scotland) (Con)
Hamilton, Rachael (Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire) (Con)
Halcro Johnston, Jamie (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Kerr, Liam (North East Scotland) (Con)
Lindhurst, Gordon (Lothian) (Con)
Lockhart, Dean (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Mason, Tom (North East Scotland) (Con)
Mitchell, Margaret (Central Scotland) (Con)
Mundell, Oliver (Dumfriesshire) (Con)
Scott, John (Ayr) (Con)
Simpson, Graham (Central Scotland) (Con)
Smith, Liz (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Stewart, Alexander (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Tomkins, Adam (Glasgow) (Con)
Wells, Annie (Glasgow) (Con)
Whittle, Brian (South Scotland) (Con)

The Presiding Officer

The result of the division is: For 91, Against 29, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 2 agreed to.

Section 9—Regulation of provision of contact services

The Presiding Officer

Group 6 is on the regulation of contact services. Amendment 3, in the name of Neil Findlay, is grouped with amendments 4, 5, 17, 18, 19, 41, 6, 42, 7 and 20.

Neil Findlay

I will try and no get carried away with the excitement of winning a vote.

The amendments deal with the regulation of contact centres. No parent should ever have to leave a child at a centre while fearing for the child’s wellbeing and where staff do not take responsibility for the child because the parent who is having contact is deemed responsible. Many children are there because there is genuine fear of harm to the child or the resident parent, and yet the resident parent is asked to sign a form to say that they will leave the child and, if they do not, they will be reported to the court and the court may find them in contempt. That happened to a constituent of mine, and it has to stop.

Who, in such a scenario, calms the fearful child if the resident parent is not there? Is it a stranger to the child? Is it a parent whom the child may well be frightened of? That could be very upsetting and damaging to the child in the long term. The contact centre must be responsible for the health, safety, welfare and wellbeing of the child when on its premises. Buildings must be up to an acceptable safety standard and there must be closed-circuit television in rooms. There should be panic rooms and panic alarms. Indoor and outdoor play areas must be safe. There should be easy access and exit, and much more. All of that should be part of the centre’s responsibilities.

17:00  

Further, the staff who have contact with or supervise children must be trained and hold recognised qualifications in relation to matters relating to children, their welfare and wellbeing. That does not mean that a plumber attending the centre to unblock a toilet must have a qualification in child welfare, but the person who is overseeing activity or supervising contact must have one.

We need to ensure that the system of contact centres is well run and carries the confidence of parents, children and the public. The state orders contact via court orders. We all accept that that contact must take place in a safe environment for children and those impacted by the court order. The interests of children must be at the centre, and financial considerations, however important, must be a secondary concern.

It is in everyone’s interest that such a system should be publicly run and publicly accountable. We have one chance to make this work and we should ensure that it is run as a public service, with an ethos and management reflecting that. We are reforming the system of contact centres, which is already a tendered system. We are reforming it because of the failings within it, yet we are going to repeat that failure by putting the service out to tender again. That is a wrong move. Having a publicly run and accountable service has to be the way forward. It is a vital area of children’s welfare. The issue is not just about funding; it is about the whole ethos underpinning the system. As I said, we are at this stage only because of the failings of the existing system, and amendment 7 will put contact centres on a robust foundation. I hope that all my amendments in this group will be supported.

I move amendment 3.

Ash Denham

Amendments 3 and 4, in the name of Neil Findlay, are in the same terms as amendments that he lodged at stage 2. I still cannot support them, because I remain unclear about what responsibilities they are trying to impose on contact centres. As I stated at stage 2, as a Parliament, we simply cannot make people or organisations subject to vague and unspecified legal duties. That would be bad law making, so, if Mr Findlay presses these amendments today—I hope that he will not—I urge members not to support them.

Amendment 5, which is also in the name of Neil Findlay, would require contact centre regulations to include provision for staff to be trained and to hold recognised professional qualifications in relation to issues concerning children. I agree that staff working in contact centres should have the right professional qualifications, including in recognising behaviours related to domestic abuse and coercive control and associated behaviours in children. However, as I have discussed with the member, the bill already provides for training and qualifications for contact centre staff to be set down in regulations, which is what his amendment calls for, too. As those regulations are developed, I would be happy to discuss these matters again with Neil Findlay, but I cannot support that amendment, because it is unnecessary—as I have said, the bill already provides that the regulations are to set out qualifications for contact centre staff, so it adds nothing.

Neil Findlay

It is good of the minister to offer to have discussions with me about future regulations. However, given that I am not standing at the next election and the minister has said that it will take three years for the system to be brought in, I might not be around for those discussions.

Members: Aw!

Ash Denham

I can hear that the chamber is entirely sad that Neil Findlay will not be around in the next session of Parliament. However, it is a genuine offer. We have already spoken about amendments that the member brought forward at stage 2. I have tried to support the member when I can, and I have accepted one of his amendments today. However, I cannot support the amendments in this group. The approach that I have taken involves consulting on the regulations, the training and the standard of accommodation, all of which will be covered in a new duty. Until now, contact centres have not been regulated, so that is a huge step forward. In the next few months, while Mr Findlay is still a member of the Parliament, the offer is there for him to discuss these issues with me. I am happy to do that.

Amendments 17 to 19 in my name make minor adjustments for readability to wording about contact centre risk assessments that was added at stage 2 by an amendment from Neil Findlay.

Amendment 41, in the name of Bob Doris, seeks to encourage contact centres to comply with

“their duties under the Equality Act 2010”,

in particular, in relation to duties

“to make reasonable adjustments to premises”

for disabled people.

I recognise the seriousness of that issue and the concerns that Bob Doris has voiced. I want to ensure that children who need one have access to a contact centre and that all contact is facilitated safely, so I am happy to support that amendment.

Amendment 6 is similar to, but not the same as, amendment 2, which we have already debated. Amendment 2 calls for consultation with people with lived experience of court-ordered contact and domestic abuse. As I said with regard to amendment 2, I agree with Neil Findlay that we need to ensure that, when we consult, people with relevant lived experience give us their views, so I was happy to support that amendment. However, I cannot support amendment 6, because it is drafted differently from amendment 2; it requires ministers to consult before “implementing” or “reviewing” regulations and it is unclear what that would mean for us in practice. A duty to consult, as part of carrying out a statutory review of legislation, is not unknown, but the requirement in that amendment is not linked to a statutory review, so it is ambiguous about when ministers are to be treated as reviewing regulations.

The concept of implementing is even more vague. Implementation is an on-going process, so when does the duty to consult about it start and when would it stop? It would be unclear when ministers are complying or not complying with that legal requirement. I was content to support amendment 2, because it was clear about what consultation was required and when. Unfortunately, amendment 6 is not clear, so I cannot support it.

Amendment 42 makes a minor adjustment to the power in section 9 of the bill; it is technical in nature.

Amendment 7, in the name of Neil Findlay, would require regulated contact centres to be

“publicly provided and accountable to the Scottish Ministers”.

As I said at stage 2, I am unclear about what that is supposed to cover. I am aware of concerns that contact centres should be publicly funded in the longer term and I point to amendment 30, which was agreed to at stage 2. It allows Scottish ministers to enter into arrangements for the provision of contact services; that ensures that centres are sustainably funded and subject to Government oversight and monitoring. That is in addition to the oversight and monitoring provided for by the bill’s system of regulation of contact service providers. Therefore, the bill already provides for public funding of contact centres. I assume that the reference in Mr Findlay’s amendment to centres being “publicly provided” is supposed to mean public funding, but I do not know and that is the problem with the amendment—I cannot support it, because I do not understand the effect that it would have in practice.

Amendment 20 places a duty on solicitors to refer their clients to a “regulated” contact centre. At stage 2, James Kelly lodged amendment 52 on that, which required that all referrals to a contact centre must be to a regulated centre. I agree with the intention behind Mr Kelly’s amendments, but I had concerns around how a duty of that nature could be enforced in relation to individual parents who self-refer. However, I agreed to consider further Mr Kelly’s amendment in advance of stage 3. Amendment 20 will ensure that all court and solicitor referrals to contact centres are to regulated centres. Failure by a solicitor to comply with that duty

“may be treated as professional misconduct or unsatisfactory professional conduct”

and dealt with through the normal professional regulation processes on that basis.

John Finnie

It is our intention to support amendment 20, but I wonder whether the insertion of that provision has caused an unwitting offence to the legal profession. There is already guidance on how the legal profession should conduct itself. Will the minister reflect on whether that provision was heavy-handed?

Ash Denham

In developing that amendment, I consulted all my officials and the Law Society of Scotland. The duty has been drafted in that way because I am unwilling to put into law something that I cannot enforce.

Presiding Officer, I have finished speaking on the amendments in the group.

Bob Doris (Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn) (SNP)

In speaking to amendment 41, I thank the minister for her constructive approach. At stages 1 and 2, I raised concerns about disability access to child contact centres. A constituent of mine has faced a two-year ordeal to secure a contact centre with an appropriate toilet facility—with a hoist—to enable him to see his child, who has cerebral palsy.

I thank my office staff for their persistence in pursuing the matter with the contact centre, which I understand is now fully adapted. However, it should never have taken so long, and other contact centres were similarly unsuitable. That is why I sought with an amendment at stage 2 to specify in the bill the minimum standards of accommodation with regard to disability access. The Government position was that such detail was best left to regulation, which would be consulted on. The minister also believed that my stage 2 amendment would duplicate existing duties and enforcement mechanisms. To be blunt, those existing duties did not deliver for my constituent anyway, and duplicating a duty that is not currently working may not have delivered change.

My amendment 41 will therefore take a different approach. The regulator, once appointed, will have the explicit power to issue reports

“on any failure, or possible failure, by a contact service provider to comply with the provider’s duties under the Equality Act 2010, and in particular any duty to make reasonable adjustments to premises in order to facilitate their use by disabled people”.

I hope that the provision will move beyond the existing legal duties that unregulated contact centres currently do not adhere to in the absence of enforceable minimum standards, an inspection regime or complaints mechanism. The bill will deliver such elements, and, through my amendment, we would also have a clear focus on disability access and a mechanism to report on contact centres that do not make reasonable adjustments.

I thank the minister for agreeing a workable solution, and I thank my constituent who, by sharing their experience, will hopefully secure for years to come improved access to child contact centres for those with disabilities.

Liam Kerr

We will not support amendments 3 to 7 in the name of Neil Findlay. Rather than take up time, I will simply say that it is for the reasons that were set out by the minister.

I will focus my comments on amendment 20, which is a good amendment. We will support it, and there is no problem with solicitors being required to refer people to regulated services. That aspect is supportable—no problem. However, the issue that I ask the minister to think about is the one that John Finnie quite rightly raised in his intervention. The concern comes from proposed subsection (2), relating to professional misconduct, and the issue is the background law. Section 34 of the Solicitors (Scotland) Act 1980 provides that

“If any solicitor fails to comply with any rule made under”

section 34,

“that failure may be treated as professional misconduct or unsatisfactory professional conduct.”

Practice rule B1.4.1 for solicitors is clear that a solicitor’s fundamental duty to act in the best interests of clients is subordinate to the solicitor’s duty to comply with the law. If amendment 20 is agreed to as drafted, there will be a legal requirement for the solicitor to send a person to a regulated contact centre. A failure to do so will be a breach of the practice rules, which will be treated as professional misconduct; therefore, there is a pre-existing, underlying obligation, such that subsection (2) is unnecessary.

The statue book must always be considered holistically, and we should not be adding to it with repetition of a provision that is already contained in legislation that governs the regulation of solicitors. We will vote in favour of amendment 20—let me make that absolutely clear—but, in an ideal world, there might be a manuscript amendment, perhaps with the consent of the Presiding Officer, which could rectify the issue. I will leave that to the minister to come back on.

James Kelly

I support all the amendments in this group. The regulation of contact centres was a theme in the committee’s evidence sessions on the bill, and it featured heavily in the stage 1 debate.

The main issue that the amendments seek to address is the protection of the child, by ensuring that if a child is left at a contact centre, they will be in a safe environment. As part of that, there must be clear responsibility and accountability of those who are in charge and running the contact centres, who have a duty of care to a child in that situation. Allied to that, it is important that people have appropriate qualifications in order to carry out such duties. Bob Doris’s points about disabled access were valid and they need to be addressed.

All those points strengthen the fact that referrals must be made to a regulated contact centre. I welcome the minister’s work in response to my amendment at stage 2, and for stipulating that referrals by solicitors must be made to regulated contact centres. We heard a lot of strong evidence on the issues around that. I think that that is why the new section to be inserted by amendment 20 states that it is a misconduct issue if the referral is not made to such a centre.

I support all the amendments in the group, and I particularly welcome the work that the minister has done on amendment 20.

The Presiding Officer

The question is, that amendment 3 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members: No.

The Presiding Officer

There will be a division. [Interruption.] We are again having difficulty with the wi-fi. We will suspend temporarily, and then rerun the vote.

17:16 Meeting suspended.  17:20 On resuming—  

The Presiding Officer

We are ready to go now. In case members are unclear, I am going to run the vote on amendment 3, in the name of Neil Findlay, again. Members may vote now.

For

Baillie, Jackie (Dumbarton) (Lab)
Baker, Claire (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)
Beamish, Claudia (South Scotland) (Lab)
Bibby, Neil (West Scotland) (Lab)
Boyack, Sarah (Lothian) (Lab)
Fee, Mary (West Scotland) (Lab)
Findlay, Neil (Lothian) (Lab)
Grant, Rhoda (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)
Gray, Iain (East Lothian) (Lab)
Griffin, Mark (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Hamilton, Rachael (Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire) (Con)
Johnson, Daniel (Edinburgh Southern) (Lab)
Kelly, James (Glasgow) (Lab)
Lamont, Johann (Glasgow) (Lab)
Lennon, Monica (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Leonard, Richard (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Macdonald, Lewis (North East Scotland) (Lab)
McNeill, Pauline (Glasgow) (Lab)
Rowley, Alex (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)
Sarwar, Anas (Glasgow) (Lab)
Smith, Elaine (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Smyth, Colin (South Scotland) (Lab)
Stewart, David (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)

Against

Adam, George (Paisley) (SNP)
Adamson, Clare (Motherwell and Wishaw) (SNP)
Allan, Dr Alasdair (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP)
Arthur, Tom (Renfrewshire South) (SNP)
Balfour, Jeremy (Lothian) (Con)
Ballantyne, Michelle (South Scotland) (Con)
Beattie, Colin (Midlothian North and Musselburgh) (SNP)
Bowman, Bill (North East Scotland) (Con)
Briggs, Miles (Lothian) (Con)
Brown, Keith (Clackmannanshire and Dunblane) (SNP)
Burnett, Alexander (Aberdeenshire West) (Con)
Cameron, Donald (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Campbell, Aileen (Clydesdale) (SNP)
Carlaw, Jackson (Eastwood) (Con)
Carson, Finlay (Galloway and West Dumfries) (Con)
Chapman, Peter (North East Scotland) (Con)
Coffey, Willie (Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley) (SNP)
Cole-Hamilton, Alex (Edinburgh Western) (LD)
Constance, Angela (Almond Valley) (SNP)
Corry, Maurice (West Scotland) (Con)
Crawford, Bruce (Stirling) (SNP)
Cunningham, Roseanna (Perthshire South and Kinross-shire) (SNP)
Davidson, Ruth (Edinburgh Central) (Con)
Denham, Ash (Edinburgh Eastern) (SNP)
Dey, Graeme (Angus South) (SNP)
Doris, Bob (Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn) (SNP)
Dornan, James (Glasgow Cathcart) (SNP)
Ewing, Annabelle (Cowdenbeath) (SNP)
Ewing, Fergus (Inverness and Nairn) (SNP)
Fabiani, Linda (East Kilbride) (SNP)
Finnie, John (Highlands and Islands) (Green)
FitzPatrick, Joe (Dundee City West) (SNP)
Forbes, Kate (Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch) (SNP)
Fraser, Murdo (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Freeman, Jeane (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley) (SNP)
Gibson, Kenneth (Cunninghame North) (SNP)
Gilruth, Jenny (Mid Fife and Glenrothes) (SNP)
Golden, Maurice (West Scotland) (Con)
Gougeon, Mairi (Angus North and Mearns) (SNP)
Grahame, Christine (Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale) (SNP)
Greene, Jamie (West Scotland) (Con)
Greer, Ross (West Scotland) (Green)
Harper, Emma (South Scotland) (SNP)
Harvie, Patrick (Glasgow) (Green)
Haughey, Clare (Rutherglen) (SNP)
Hepburn, Jamie (Cumbernauld and Kilsyth) (SNP)
Hyslop, Fiona (Linlithgow) (SNP)
Halcro Johnston, Jamie (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Johnstone, Alison (Lothian) (Green)
Kerr, Liam (North East Scotland) (Con)
Kidd, Bill (Glasgow Anniesland) (SNP)
Lindhurst, Gordon (Lothian) (Con)
Lochhead, Richard (Moray) (SNP)
Lockhart, Dean (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Lyle, Richard (Uddingston and Bellshill) (SNP)
MacDonald, Angus (Falkirk East) (SNP)
MacDonald, Gordon (Edinburgh Pentlands) (SNP)
MacGregor, Fulton (Coatbridge and Chryston) (SNP)
Mackay, Rona (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (SNP)
Macpherson, Ben (Edinburgh Northern and Leith) (SNP)
Maguire, Ruth (Cunninghame South) (SNP)
Martin, Gillian (Aberdeenshire East) (SNP)
Mason, John (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)
Mason, Tom (North East Scotland) (Con)
Matheson, Michael (Falkirk West) (SNP)
McAlpine, Joan (South Scotland) (SNP)
McArthur, Liam (Orkney Islands) (LD)
McDonald, Mark (Aberdeen Donside) (Ind)
McKee, Ivan (Glasgow Provan) (SNP)
McKelvie, Christina (Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse) (SNP)
McMillan, Stuart (Greenock and Inverclyde) (SNP)
Mitchell, Margaret (Central Scotland) (Con)
Mundell, Oliver (Dumfriesshire) (Con)
Neil, Alex (Airdrie and Shotts) (SNP)
Paterson, Gil (Clydebank and Milngavie) (SNP)
Rennie, Willie (North East Fife) (LD)
Robison, Shona (Dundee City East) (SNP)
Ross, Gail (Caithness, Sutherland and Ross) (SNP)
Rumbles, Mike (North East Scotland) (LD)
Ruskell, Mark (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Green)
Scott, John (Ayr) (Con)
Simpson, Graham (Central Scotland) (Con)
Smith, Liz (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Somerville, Shirley-Anne (Dunfermline) (SNP)
Stevenson, Stewart (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)
Stewart, Alexander (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Stewart, Kevin (Aberdeen Central) (SNP)
Todd, Maree (Highlands and Islands) (SNP)
Tomkins, Adam (Glasgow) (Con)
Torrance, David (Kirkcaldy) (SNP)
Watt, Maureen (Aberdeen South and North Kincardine) (SNP)
Wells, Annie (Glasgow) (Con)
Wheelhouse, Paul (South Scotland) (SNP)
White, Sandra (Glasgow Kelvin) (SNP)
Whittle, Brian (South Scotland) (Con)
Wightman, Andy (Lothian) (Green)
Wishart, Beatrice (Shetland Islands) (LD)
Yousaf, Humza (Glasgow Pollok) (SNP)

The Presiding Officer

The result of the division is: For 23, Against 98, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 3 disagreed to.

Amendment 4 moved—[Neil Findlay].

The Presiding Officer

The question is, that amendment 4 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members: No.

The Presiding Officer

There will be a division.

For

Baillie, Jackie (Dumbarton) (Lab)
Baker, Claire (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)
Beamish, Claudia (South Scotland) (Lab)
Bibby, Neil (West Scotland) (Lab)
Boyack, Sarah (Lothian) (Lab)
Fee, Mary (West Scotland) (Lab)
Findlay, Neil (Lothian) (Lab)
Grant, Rhoda (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)
Gray, Iain (East Lothian) (Lab)
Griffin, Mark (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Johnson, Daniel (Edinburgh Southern) (Lab)
Kelly, James (Glasgow) (Lab)
Lamont, Johann (Glasgow) (Lab)
Lennon, Monica (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Leonard, Richard (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Macdonald, Lewis (North East Scotland) (Lab)
McNeill, Pauline (Glasgow) (Lab)
Rowley, Alex (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)
Sarwar, Anas (Glasgow) (Lab)
Smith, Elaine (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Smyth, Colin (South Scotland) (Lab)
Stewart, David (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)

Against

Adam, George (Paisley) (SNP)
Adamson, Clare (Motherwell and Wishaw) (SNP)
Allan, Dr Alasdair (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP)
Arthur, Tom (Renfrewshire South) (SNP)
Balfour, Jeremy (Lothian) (Con)
Ballantyne, Michelle (South Scotland) (Con)
Beattie, Colin (Midlothian North and Musselburgh) (SNP)
Bowman, Bill (North East Scotland) (Con)
Briggs, Miles (Lothian) (Con)
Brown, Keith (Clackmannanshire and Dunblane) (SNP)
Burnett, Alexander (Aberdeenshire West) (Con)
Cameron, Donald (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Campbell, Aileen (Clydesdale) (SNP)
Carlaw, Jackson (Eastwood) (Con)
Carson, Finlay (Galloway and West Dumfries) (Con)
Chapman, Peter (North East Scotland) (Con)
Coffey, Willie (Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley) (SNP)
Cole-Hamilton, Alex (Edinburgh Western) (LD)
Constance, Angela (Almond Valley) (SNP)
Corry, Maurice (West Scotland) (Con)
Crawford, Bruce (Stirling) (SNP)
Cunningham, Roseanna (Perthshire South and Kinross-shire) (SNP)
Davidson, Ruth (Edinburgh Central) (Con)
Denham, Ash (Edinburgh Eastern) (SNP)
Dey, Graeme (Angus South) (SNP)
Doris, Bob (Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn) (SNP)
Dornan, James (Glasgow Cathcart) (SNP)
Ewing, Annabelle (Cowdenbeath) (SNP)
Ewing, Fergus (Inverness and Nairn) (SNP)
Fabiani, Linda (East Kilbride) (SNP)
Finnie, John (Highlands and Islands) (Green)
FitzPatrick, Joe (Dundee City West) (SNP)
Forbes, Kate (Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch) (SNP)
Fraser, Murdo (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Freeman, Jeane (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley) (SNP)
Gibson, Kenneth (Cunninghame North) (SNP)
Gilruth, Jenny (Mid Fife and Glenrothes) (SNP)
Golden, Maurice (West Scotland) (Con)
Gougeon, Mairi (Angus North and Mearns) (SNP)
Grahame, Christine (Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale) (SNP)
Greene, Jamie (West Scotland) (Con)
Greer, Ross (West Scotland) (Green)
Hamilton, Rachael (Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire) (Con)
Harper, Emma (South Scotland) (SNP)
Harvie, Patrick (Glasgow) (Green)
Haughey, Clare (Rutherglen) (SNP)
Hepburn, Jamie (Cumbernauld and Kilsyth) (SNP)
Hyslop, Fiona (Linlithgow) (SNP)
Halcro Johnston, Jamie (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Johnstone, Alison (Lothian) (Green)
Kerr, Liam (North East Scotland) (Con)
Kidd, Bill (Glasgow Anniesland) (SNP)
Lindhurst, Gordon (Lothian) (Con)
Lochhead, Richard (Moray) (SNP)
Lockhart, Dean (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Lyle, Richard (Uddingston and Bellshill) (SNP)
MacDonald, Angus (Falkirk East) (SNP)
MacDonald, Gordon (Edinburgh Pentlands) (SNP)
MacGregor, Fulton (Coatbridge and Chryston) (SNP)
Mackay, Rona (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (SNP)
Macpherson, Ben (Edinburgh Northern and Leith) (SNP)
Maguire, Ruth (Cunninghame South) (SNP)
Martin, Gillian (Aberdeenshire East) (SNP)
Mason, John (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)
Mason, Tom (North East Scotland) (Con)
Matheson, Michael (Falkirk West) (SNP)
McAlpine, Joan (South Scotland) (SNP)
McArthur, Liam (Orkney Islands) (LD)
McDonald, Mark (Aberdeen Donside) (Ind)
McKee, Ivan (Glasgow Provan) (SNP)
McKelvie, Christina (Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse) (SNP)
McMillan, Stuart (Greenock and Inverclyde) (SNP)
Mitchell, Margaret (Central Scotland) (Con)
Mundell, Oliver (Dumfriesshire) (Con)
Neil, Alex (Airdrie and Shotts) (SNP)
Paterson, Gil (Clydebank and Milngavie) (SNP)
Rennie, Willie (North East Fife) (LD)
Robison, Shona (Dundee City East) (SNP)
Ross, Gail (Caithness, Sutherland and Ross) (SNP)
Rumbles, Mike (North East Scotland) (LD)
Ruskell, Mark (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Green)
Scott, John (Ayr) (Con)
Simpson, Graham (Central Scotland) (Con)
Smith, Liz (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Somerville, Shirley-Anne (Dunfermline) (SNP)
Stevenson, Stewart (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)
Stewart, Alexander (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Stewart, Kevin (Aberdeen Central) (SNP)
Todd, Maree (Highlands and Islands) (SNP)
Tomkins, Adam (Glasgow) (Con)
Torrance, David (Kirkcaldy) (SNP)
Watt, Maureen (Aberdeen South and North Kincardine) (SNP)
Wells, Annie (Glasgow) (Con)
Wheelhouse, Paul (South Scotland) (SNP)
White, Sandra (Glasgow Kelvin) (SNP)
Whittle, Brian (South Scotland) (Con)
Wightman, Andy (Lothian) (Green)
Wishart, Beatrice (Shetland Islands) (LD)
Yousaf, Humza (Glasgow Pollok) (SNP)

The Presiding Officer

The result of the division is: For 22, Against 99, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 4 disagreed to.

Amendment 5 moved—[Neil Findlay].

The Presiding Officer

The question is, that amendment 5 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members: No.

The Presiding Officer

There will be a division.

For

Baillie, Jackie (Dumbarton) (Lab)
Baker, Claire (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)
Beamish, Claudia (South Scotland) (Lab)
Bibby, Neil (West Scotland) (Lab)
Boyack, Sarah (Lothian) (Lab)
Fee, Mary (West Scotland) (Lab)
Findlay, Neil (Lothian) (Lab)
Finnie, John (Highlands and Islands) (Green)
Grant, Rhoda (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)
Gray, Iain (East Lothian) (Lab)
Greer, Ross (West Scotland) (Green)
Griffin, Mark (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Harvie, Patrick (Glasgow) (Green)
Johnson, Daniel (Edinburgh Southern) (Lab)
Johnstone, Alison (Lothian) (Green)
Kelly, James (Glasgow) (Lab)
Lamont, Johann (Glasgow) (Lab)
Lennon, Monica (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Leonard, Richard (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Macdonald, Lewis (North East Scotland) (Lab)
McNeill, Pauline (Glasgow) (Lab)
Rowley, Alex (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)
Ruskell, Mark (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Green)
Sarwar, Anas (Glasgow) (Lab)
Smith, Elaine (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Smyth, Colin (South Scotland) (Lab)
Stewart, David (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)
Wightman, Andy (Lothian) (Green)

Against

Adam, George (Paisley) (SNP)
Adamson, Clare (Motherwell and Wishaw) (SNP)
Allan, Dr Alasdair (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP)
Arthur, Tom (Renfrewshire South) (SNP)
Balfour, Jeremy (Lothian) (Con)
Ballantyne, Michelle (South Scotland) (Con)
Beattie, Colin (Midlothian North and Musselburgh) (SNP)
Bowman, Bill (North East Scotland) (Con)
Briggs, Miles (Lothian) (Con)
Brown, Keith (Clackmannanshire and Dunblane) (SNP)
Burnett, Alexander (Aberdeenshire West) (Con)
Cameron, Donald (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Campbell, Aileen (Clydesdale) (SNP)
Carlaw, Jackson (Eastwood) (Con)
Carson, Finlay (Galloway and West Dumfries) (Con)
Chapman, Peter (North East Scotland) (Con)
Coffey, Willie (Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley) (SNP)
Cole-Hamilton, Alex (Edinburgh Western) (LD)
Constance, Angela (Almond Valley) (SNP)
Corry, Maurice (West Scotland) (Con)
Crawford, Bruce (Stirling) (SNP)
Cunningham, Roseanna (Perthshire South and Kinross-shire) (SNP)
Davidson, Ruth (Edinburgh Central) (Con)
Denham, Ash (Edinburgh Eastern) (SNP)
Dey, Graeme (Angus South) (SNP)
Doris, Bob (Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn) (SNP)
Dornan, James (Glasgow Cathcart) (SNP)
Ewing, Annabelle (Cowdenbeath) (SNP)
Ewing, Fergus (Inverness and Nairn) (SNP)
Fabiani, Linda (East Kilbride) (SNP)
FitzPatrick, Joe (Dundee City West) (SNP)
Forbes, Kate (Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch) (SNP)
Fraser, Murdo (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Freeman, Jeane (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley) (SNP)
Gibson, Kenneth (Cunninghame North) (SNP)
Gilruth, Jenny (Mid Fife and Glenrothes) (SNP)
Golden, Maurice (West Scotland) (Con)
Gougeon, Mairi (Angus North and Mearns) (SNP)
Grahame, Christine (Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale) (SNP)
Greene, Jamie (West Scotland) (Con)
Hamilton, Rachael (Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire) (Con)
Harper, Emma (South Scotland) (SNP)
Haughey, Clare (Rutherglen) (SNP)
Hepburn, Jamie (Cumbernauld and Kilsyth) (SNP)
Hyslop, Fiona (Linlithgow) (SNP)
Halcro Johnston, Jamie (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Kerr, Liam (North East Scotland) (Con)
Kidd, Bill (Glasgow Anniesland) (SNP)
Lindhurst, Gordon (Lothian) (Con)
Lochhead, Richard (Moray) (SNP)
Lockhart, Dean (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Lyle, Richard (Uddingston and Bellshill) (SNP)
MacDonald, Angus (Falkirk East) (SNP)
MacDonald, Gordon (Edinburgh Pentlands) (SNP)
MacGregor, Fulton (Coatbridge and Chryston) (SNP)
Mackay, Rona (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (SNP)
Macpherson, Ben (Edinburgh Northern and Leith) (SNP)
Maguire, Ruth (Cunninghame South) (SNP)
Martin, Gillian (Aberdeenshire East) (SNP)
Mason, John (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)
Mason, Tom (North East Scotland) (Con)
Matheson, Michael (Falkirk West) (SNP)
McAlpine, Joan (South Scotland) (SNP)
McArthur, Liam (Orkney Islands) (LD)
McDonald, Mark (Aberdeen Donside) (Ind)
McKee, Ivan (Glasgow Provan) (SNP)
McKelvie, Christina (Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse) (SNP)
McMillan, Stuart (Greenock and Inverclyde) (SNP)
Mitchell, Margaret (Central Scotland) (Con)
Mundell, Oliver (Dumfriesshire) (Con)
Neil, Alex (Airdrie and Shotts) (SNP)
Paterson, Gil (Clydebank and Milngavie) (SNP)
Rennie, Willie (North East Fife) (LD)
Robison, Shona (Dundee City East) (SNP)
Ross, Gail (Caithness, Sutherland and Ross) (SNP)
Rumbles, Mike (North East Scotland) (LD)
Scott, John (Ayr) (Con)
Simpson, Graham (Central Scotland) (Con)
Smith, Liz (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Somerville, Shirley-Anne (Dunfermline) (SNP)
Stevenson, Stewart (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)
Stewart, Alexander (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Stewart, Kevin (Aberdeen Central) (SNP)
Todd, Maree (Highlands and Islands) (SNP)
Tomkins, Adam (Glasgow) (Con)
Torrance, David (Kirkcaldy) (SNP)
Watt, Maureen (Aberdeen South and North Kincardine) (SNP)
Wells, Annie (Glasgow) (Con)
Wheelhouse, Paul (South Scotland) (SNP)
White, Sandra (Glasgow Kelvin) (SNP)
Whittle, Brian (South Scotland) (Con)
Wishart, Beatrice (Shetland Islands) (LD)
Yousaf, Humza (Glasgow Pollok) (SNP)

The Presiding Officer

The result of the division is: For 28, Against 93, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 5 disagreed to.

Amendments 17 to 19 moved—[Ash Denham]—and agreed to.

Amendment 41 moved—[Bob Doris]—and agreed to.

Amendment 6 moved—[Neil Findlay].

The Presiding Officer

The question is, that amendment 6 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members: No.

The Presiding Officer

There will be a division.

For

Baillie, Jackie (Dumbarton) (Lab)
Baker, Claire (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)
Beamish, Claudia (South Scotland) (Lab)
Bibby, Neil (West Scotland) (Lab)
Boyack, Sarah (Lothian) (Lab)
Cole-Hamilton, Alex (Edinburgh Western) (LD)
Fee, Mary (West Scotland) (Lab)
Findlay, Neil (Lothian) (Lab)
Finnie, John (Highlands and Islands) (Green)
Grant, Rhoda (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)
Gray, Iain (East Lothian) (Lab)
Greer, Ross (West Scotland) (Green)
Griffin, Mark (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Harvie, Patrick (Glasgow) (Green)
Johnson, Daniel (Edinburgh Southern) (Lab)
Johnstone, Alison (Lothian) (Green)
Kelly, James (Glasgow) (Lab)
Lamont, Johann (Glasgow) (Lab)
Lennon, Monica (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Leonard, Richard (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Macdonald, Lewis (North East Scotland) (Lab)
McArthur, Liam (Orkney Islands) (LD)
McNeill, Pauline (Glasgow) (Lab)
Rennie, Willie (North East Fife) (LD)
Rowley, Alex (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)
Rumbles, Mike (North East Scotland) (LD)
Ruskell, Mark (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Green)
Sarwar, Anas (Glasgow) (Lab)
Smith, Elaine (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Smyth, Colin (South Scotland) (Lab)
Stewart, David (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)
Wightman, Andy (Lothian) (Green)
Wishart, Beatrice (Shetland Islands) (LD)

Against

Adam, George (Paisley) (SNP)
Adamson, Clare (Motherwell and Wishaw) (SNP)
Allan, Dr Alasdair (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP)
Arthur, Tom (Renfrewshire South) (SNP)
Balfour, Jeremy (Lothian) (Con)
Ballantyne, Michelle (South Scotland) (Con)
Beattie, Colin (Midlothian North and Musselburgh) (SNP)
Bowman, Bill (North East Scotland) (Con)
Briggs, Miles (Lothian) (Con)
Brown, Keith (Clackmannanshire and Dunblane) (SNP)
Burnett, Alexander (Aberdeenshire West) (Con)
Cameron, Donald (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Campbell, Aileen (Clydesdale) (SNP)
Carlaw, Jackson (Eastwood) (Con)
Carson, Finlay (Galloway and West Dumfries) (Con)
Chapman, Peter (North East Scotland) (Con)
Coffey, Willie (Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley) (SNP)
Constance, Angela (Almond Valley) (SNP)
Corry, Maurice (West Scotland) (Con)
Crawford, Bruce (Stirling) (SNP)
Cunningham, Roseanna (Perthshire South and Kinross-shire) (SNP)
Davidson, Ruth (Edinburgh Central) (Con)
Denham, Ash (Edinburgh Eastern) (SNP)
Dey, Graeme (Angus South) (SNP)
Doris, Bob (Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn) (SNP)
Dornan, James (Glasgow Cathcart) (SNP)
Ewing, Annabelle (Cowdenbeath) (SNP)
Ewing, Fergus (Inverness and Nairn) (SNP)
Fabiani, Linda (East Kilbride) (SNP)
FitzPatrick, Joe (Dundee City West) (SNP)
Forbes, Kate (Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch) (SNP)
Fraser, Murdo (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Freeman, Jeane (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley) (SNP)
Gibson, Kenneth (Cunninghame North) (SNP)
Gilruth, Jenny (Mid Fife and Glenrothes) (SNP)
Golden, Maurice (West Scotland) (Con)
Gougeon, Mairi (Angus North and Mearns) (SNP)
Grahame, Christine (Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale) (SNP)
Greene, Jamie (West Scotland) (Con)
Hamilton, Rachael (Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire) (Con)
Harper, Emma (South Scotland) (SNP)
Haughey, Clare (Rutherglen) (SNP)
Hepburn, Jamie (Cumbernauld and Kilsyth) (SNP)
Halcro Johnston, Jamie (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Kerr, Liam (North East Scotland) (Con)
Kidd, Bill (Glasgow Anniesland) (SNP)
Lindhurst, Gordon (Lothian) (Con)
Lochhead, Richard (Moray) (SNP)
Lockhart, Dean (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Lyle, Richard (Uddingston and Bellshill) (SNP)
MacDonald, Angus (Falkirk East) (SNP)
MacDonald, Gordon (Edinburgh Pentlands) (SNP)
MacGregor, Fulton (Coatbridge and Chryston) (SNP)
Mackay, Rona (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (SNP)
Macpherson, Ben (Edinburgh Northern and Leith) (SNP)
Maguire, Ruth (Cunninghame South) (SNP)
Martin, Gillian (Aberdeenshire East) (SNP)
Mason, John (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)
Mason, Tom (North East Scotland) (Con)
Matheson, Michael (Falkirk West) (SNP)
McAlpine, Joan (South Scotland) (SNP)
McDonald, Mark (Aberdeen Donside) (Ind)
McKee, Ivan (Glasgow Provan) (SNP)
McKelvie, Christina (Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse) (SNP)
McMillan, Stuart (Greenock and Inverclyde) (SNP)
Mitchell, Margaret (Central Scotland) (Con)
Mundell, Oliver (Dumfriesshire) (Con)
Neil, Alex (Airdrie and Shotts) (SNP)
Paterson, Gil (Clydebank and Milngavie) (SNP)
Robison, Shona (Dundee City East) (SNP)
Ross, Gail (Caithness, Sutherland and Ross) (SNP)
Scott, John (Ayr) (Con)
Simpson, Graham (Central Scotland) (Con)
Smith, Liz (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Somerville, Shirley-Anne (Dunfermline) (SNP)
Stevenson, Stewart (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)
Stewart, Kevin (Aberdeen Central) (SNP)
Todd, Maree (Highlands and Islands) (SNP)
Tomkins, Adam (Glasgow) (Con)
Torrance, David (Kirkcaldy) (SNP)
Watt, Maureen (Aberdeen South and North Kincardine) (SNP)
Wells, Annie (Glasgow) (Con)
Wheelhouse, Paul (South Scotland) (SNP)
White, Sandra (Glasgow Kelvin) (SNP)
Whittle, Brian (South Scotland) (Con)
Yousaf, Humza (Glasgow Pollok) (SNP)

The Presiding Officer

The result of the division is: For 33, Against 86, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 6 disagreed to.

Amendment 42 moved—[Ash Denham]—and agreed to.

Amendment 7 moved—[Neil Findlay].

The Presiding Officer

The question is, that amendment 7 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members: No.

The Presiding Officer

There will be a division.

For

Baillie, Jackie (Dumbarton) (Lab)
Baker, Claire (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)
Beamish, Claudia (South Scotland) (Lab)
Bibby, Neil (West Scotland) (Lab)
Boyack, Sarah (Lothian) (Lab)
Fee, Mary (West Scotland) (Lab)
Findlay, Neil (Lothian) (Lab)
Finnie, John (Highlands and Islands) (Green)
Grant, Rhoda (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)
Gray, Iain (East Lothian) (Lab)
Greer, Ross (West Scotland) (Green)
Griffin, Mark (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Harvie, Patrick (Glasgow) (Green)
Johnson, Daniel (Edinburgh Southern) (Lab)
Johnstone, Alison (Lothian) (Green)
Kelly, James (Glasgow) (Lab)
Lamont, Johann (Glasgow) (Lab)
Lennon, Monica (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Leonard, Richard (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Macdonald, Lewis (North East Scotland) (Lab)
McNeill, Pauline (Glasgow) (Lab)
Rowley, Alex (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)
Ruskell, Mark (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Green)
Sarwar, Anas (Glasgow) (Lab)
Smith, Elaine (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Smyth, Colin (South Scotland) (Lab)
Stewart, David (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)
Wightman, Andy (Lothian) (Green)

Against

Adam, George (Paisley) (SNP)
Adamson, Clare (Motherwell and Wishaw) (SNP)
Allan, Dr Alasdair (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP)
Arthur, Tom (Renfrewshire South) (SNP)
Balfour, Jeremy (Lothian) (Con)
Ballantyne, Michelle (South Scotland) (Con)
Beattie, Colin (Midlothian North and Musselburgh) (SNP)
Bowman, Bill (North East Scotland) (Con)
Briggs, Miles (Lothian) (Con)
Brown, Keith (Clackmannanshire and Dunblane) (SNP)
Burnett, Alexander (Aberdeenshire West) (Con)
Cameron, Donald (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Campbell, Aileen (Clydesdale) (SNP)
Carlaw, Jackson (Eastwood) (Con)
Carson, Finlay (Galloway and West Dumfries) (Con)
Chapman, Peter (North East Scotland) (Con)
Coffey, Willie (Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley) (SNP)
Cole-Hamilton, Alex (Edinburgh Western) (LD)
Constance, Angela (Almond Valley) (SNP)
Corry, Maurice (West Scotland) (Con)
Crawford, Bruce (Stirling) (SNP)
Cunningham, Roseanna (Perthshire South and Kinross-shire) (SNP)
Davidson, Ruth (Edinburgh Central) (Con)
Denham, Ash (Edinburgh Eastern) (SNP)
Dey, Graeme (Angus South) (SNP)
Doris, Bob (Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn) (SNP)
Dornan, James (Glasgow Cathcart) (SNP)
Ewing, Annabelle (Cowdenbeath) (SNP)
Ewing, Fergus (Inverness and Nairn) (SNP)
Fabiani, Linda (East Kilbride) (SNP)
FitzPatrick, Joe (Dundee City West) (SNP)
Forbes, Kate (Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch) (SNP)
Fraser, Murdo (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Freeman, Jeane (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley) (SNP)
Gibson, Kenneth (Cunninghame North) (SNP)
Gilruth, Jenny (Mid Fife and Glenrothes) (SNP)
Golden, Maurice (West Scotland) (Con)
Gougeon, Mairi (Angus North and Mearns) (SNP)
Grahame, Christine (Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale) (SNP)
Greene, Jamie (West Scotland) (Con)
Hamilton, Rachael (Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire) (Con)
Harper, Emma (South Scotland) (SNP)
Haughey, Clare (Rutherglen) (SNP)
Hepburn, Jamie (Cumbernauld and Kilsyth) (SNP)
Hyslop, Fiona (Linlithgow) (SNP)
Halcro Johnston, Jamie (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Kerr, Liam (North East Scotland) (Con)
Kidd, Bill (Glasgow Anniesland) (SNP)
Lindhurst, Gordon (Lothian) (Con)
Lochhead, Richard (Moray) (SNP)
Lockhart, Dean (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Lyle, Richard (Uddingston and Bellshill) (SNP)
MacDonald, Angus (Falkirk East) (SNP)
MacDonald, Gordon (Edinburgh Pentlands) (SNP)
MacGregor, Fulton (Coatbridge and Chryston) (SNP)
Mackay, Rona (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (SNP)
Macpherson, Ben (Edinburgh Northern and Leith) (SNP)
Maguire, Ruth (Cunninghame South) (SNP)
Martin, Gillian (Aberdeenshire East) (SNP)
Mason, John (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)
Mason, Tom (North East Scotland) (Con)
Matheson, Michael (Falkirk West) (SNP)
McAlpine, Joan (South Scotland) (SNP)
McArthur, Liam (Orkney Islands) (LD)
McDonald, Mark (Aberdeen Donside) (Ind)
McKee, Ivan (Glasgow Provan) (SNP)
McKelvie, Christina (Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse) (SNP)
McMillan, Stuart (Greenock and Inverclyde) (SNP)
Mitchell, Margaret (Central Scotland) (Con)
Mundell, Oliver (Dumfriesshire) (Con)
Neil, Alex (Airdrie and Shotts) (SNP)
Paterson, Gil (Clydebank and Milngavie) (SNP)
Rennie, Willie (North East Fife) (LD)
Robison, Shona (Dundee City East) (SNP)
Ross, Gail (Caithness, Sutherland and Ross) (SNP)
Rumbles, Mike (North East Scotland) (LD)
Scott, John (Ayr) (Con)
Simpson, Graham (Central Scotland) (Con)
Smith, Liz (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Somerville, Shirley-Anne (Dunfermline) (SNP)
Stevenson, Stewart (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)
Stewart, Alexander (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Stewart, Kevin (Aberdeen Central) (SNP)
Todd, Maree (Highlands and Islands) (SNP)
Tomkins, Adam (Glasgow) (Con)
Torrance, David (Kirkcaldy) (SNP)
Watt, Maureen (Aberdeen South and North Kincardine) (SNP)
Wells, Annie (Glasgow) (Con)
Wheelhouse, Paul (South Scotland) (SNP)
White, Sandra (Glasgow Kelvin) (SNP)
Wishart, Beatrice (Shetland Islands) (LD)
Yousaf, Humza (Glasgow Pollok) (SNP)

The Presiding Officer

The result of the division is: For 28, Against 92, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 7 disagreed to.

After section 9

Amendment 20 moved—[Ash Denham]—and agreed to.

The Presiding Officer

Before we move to group 7, we will take a short comfort break. I ask members to come back to the chamber for 17:40.

17:30 Meeting suspended.  17:43 On resuming—  

Section 10—Promotion of contact between looked after children and siblings

The Presiding Officer

Group 7 is on the promotion of contact between children and others. Amendment 43, in the name of Rona Mackay, is grouped with amendments 22, 44 and 45.

Rona Mackay (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (SNP)

Amendment 43 is very straightforward. It is purely about terminology. I was astonished to see such archaic language as “half-blood” and “whole-blood” in 21st century legislation when describing family relationships. I lodged an amendment on this at stage 2, but I did not move it at the time, because the minister agreed that she and her officials would work with me to agree on more appropriate terminology. I am pleased that that has happened, and we now have a much better form of words.

The new form of words that amendment 44 introduces to replace “half-blood” and “whole-blood” is

“two people are siblings if they have at least one parent in common”.

In my view, that is a far more realistic way to reflect family relationships in 2020 and seems much less offensive than “half-blood” and “whole-blood”.

17:45  

Amendment 45 relates to contact with people with whom the child has an attachment. Studies have shown that children form attachments with those who have a significant caring presence in their lives. Attachments are of course crucial for the healthy development of young people. Those people can be

“a relevant person in relation to the child ... a sibling”

or

“any other person with whom the child has resided and with whom the child has an ongoing relationship”.

That relates back to amendment 44, which states that

“two people are siblings if they have at least one parent in common”.

Sibling contact, where appropriate and without risk, is crucial to maintain. During stage 1, we had enormously powerful evidence of that from a care-experienced youngster who was estranged from his sibling and had limited supervised contact. That heaped trauma on top of trauma for him, and it had to be addressed. It is important that amendment 45 also impacts positively on adoptive parents, who are, in every sense, legal parents and guardians. The new definition will help to cement relationships in extended families.

I hope that my amendments help to bring the meaning and terminology of the legislation up to date, to reflect modern family relationships without any blurring of the lines when it comes to contact and role models in a child’s life.

I move amendment 43.

Liam McArthur

I start by welcoming Rona Mackay’s amendments in this group. The issue of sibling contact, as Rona Mackay indicated, was the focus of perhaps the most emotional and powerful evidence session that the committee held on the bill, and I pay tribute to Oisín King for his personal testimony. Time will tell whether the proposed changes go far enough, but I certainly welcome them and I thank Rona Mackay for her efforts on that important issue.

Amendment 22, in my name, is again a reprise of an amendment that I moved at stage 2, on which I was supported by Jeremy Balfour and Fulton MacGregor. As I said at stage 2,

“foster care allows children to develop valuable relationships. Keeping in touch with the people they love and trust is important for children and young people as they move through or even out of the care system.”—[Official Report, Justice Committee, 23 June 2020; c 55.]

However, it is also the case that, for many, the relationships that they develop with their foster carers are not prioritised or supported. In some cases, children and foster carers are even prevented from maintaining contact due to the outdated belief that children must break their attachments in order to make new ones.

As I said earlier, I absolutely accept the centrality of taking decisions in the best interests of the child, but it seems perverse to abruptly end supportive relationships, which can only risk leaving a child feeling abandoned or rejected and perhaps less able to form those relationships in future. That seems to run wholly counter to the principles of the bill. From my discussions with the minister, I recognise that making changes to the bill could be problematic. It may therefore be more appropriate to address in guidance the concerns that have been raised by the Fostering Network and foster carers.

I am grateful to the minister for sharing with me the draft guidance that has already been prepared. I know from my discussions with the Fostering Network that it believes that that will be a very positive step in the right direction. I note in particular, the acknowledgment in the draft guidance that

“a child’s needs, including their emotional wellbeing, are the paramount consideration and relationships with former caregivers should be maintained wherever appropriate and for as long as is appropriate, tailored to the needs of the child.”

It also states that

“Keeping in touch after a child moves family should, if appropriate, be routinely considered part of the responsibility of a carer, and carers must be supported by professionals to carry this out as required.”

I appreciate that further consultation on the draft guidance will need to take place, but I very much welcome the strides that have been made and, on that basis, will not move amendment 22.

I conclude by recording my thanks to the Fostering Network for its efforts in highlighting the issue and to foster carers for the invaluable work they do, which may not always get the recognition that it deserves.

Liam Kerr

We will support the amendments in the group bar amendment 22. Rona Mackay’s points are well made and I associate myself with Liam McArthur’s thoughts on her amendments. My issue with amendment 22 is similar to my comments earlier, and I am pleased to note that Mr McArthur will not move it, but I understand why he lodged it.

Ash Denham

I am grateful to Rona Mackay for lodging amendments 43, 44 and 45, the need for which to modernise the language that is used in the bill with reference to siblings was highlighted to the Justice Committee and at stage 2. The amendments ensure that the sibling contact duties that are created by the bill will extend to half-siblings but use accessible and modern language in doing so. Instead of referring to blood, they refer to having

“at least one parent in common.”

The word “parent” encompasses biological parents, adoptive parents and those who are deemed to be parents through the law of assisted reproduction. The amendments do not change the situation of children who are not siblings but who have a sibling-like relationship, who will continue to be included within the duties.

I appreciate Liam McArthur’s reasons for lodging amendment 22. I fully understand that maintaining a child’s link with people who are important to them can be beneficial to them as they grow and develop. For that reason, my officials are engaging with stakeholders to strengthen the guidance in this area, which has already been shared in draft with key organisations for their feedback and comment. I consider that, in this instance, guidance is the best way to support children in this area, given the need for a sensitive and nuanced approach to supporting such important relationships, and I note that Mr McArthur has decided not to move amendment 22.

Amendment 43 agreed to.

Amendment 22 not moved.

Amendment 44 moved—[Rona Mackay]—and agreed to.

Section 10A—Duty to consider contact when making etc compulsory supervision order

Amendment 45 moved—[Rona Mackay]—and agreed to.

Section 11A—Alternative methods of dispute resolution

The Presiding Officer

Group 8 is on alternative methods of dispute resolution. Amendment 24, in the name of the minister, is grouped with amendments 25, 32 and 33.

Ash Denham

The amendments in this group seek to remove and replace sections 11A and 11B, on funding for alternative dispute resolution, which were added to the bill at stage 2. The new provisions will achieve the policy aims of sections 11A and 11B, but they address issues that might have caused problems in practice.

I appreciate the engagement that I have had with Margaret Mitchell on the amendments. I know that alternative dispute resolution is a subject that has been of great interest to her for many years.

Amendment 32 will require the Scottish ministers to assist people to meet the costs of alternative dispute resolution. The Scottish Government recognises the valuable role that ADR, including mediation, can play. One of the key aims of the bill is to ensure that the voice of the child at the centre of any dispute is heard. It is important that, if parties decide to use ADR, the voice of the child is not lost. Therefore, amendment 32 insists that public funding will be available only for those ADR processes that take on board the views of the child to at least the same extent as a court is required to do. We have already discussed what the bill says about those requirements for courts.

Amendment 33 will place a duty on the Scottish ministers to establish a pilot scheme, under which parties to court proceedings will be required to attend awareness meetings on alternative dispute resolution processes. I make it clear that such meetings are not themselves a form of ADR but are an opportunity for the parties to learn about the availability of alternatives to court.

Amendment 33 makes it clear that cases in which there has been domestic abuse are not to be taken under the pilot scheme; I am sure that members will agree that that would not be appropriate. I also commit to working with organisations that support victims of domestic abuse when I establish the pilot.

It is also very important for the pilot to be properly evaluated. I would expect any evaluation to look at statistics on the number of parties who attended the awareness meetings, as well as the outcome in those cases. The evaluation process will include interviews with people who have participated in the pilot and with ADR providers.

I move amendment 24.

Margaret Mitchell (Central Scotland) (Con)

I am pleased to speak in support of the amendments in this group that deal with alternative methods of dispute resolution. I thank the minister for working with me to ensure that the amendments in my name that were passed at stage 2, which provide for a mediation pilot scheme and for legal aid funding, are improved.

Amendments 32 and 33 allow for greater flexibility for ministers to provide financial assistance to parties seeking to use alternative dispute resolution. For example, it could allow the Scottish Legal Aid Board to make grant payments to relevant bodies for the provision of ADR, helping to increase the availability of services and providing value for money.

The amendments also ensure that there is a clause in the mediation process stipulating that the voice of the child or young person is heard when decisions that affect them are taken. That has been achieved by including the duty to evaluate the pilot and to analyse the outcomes for children at the centre of the dispute.

I know that Relationships Scotland and CALM Scotland have previously approached the Scottish Government about the implementation of a similar pilot scheme. I hope that the Scottish Government will draw on those organisations’ expertise in designing and implementing the pilot.

I hope that the amendments will help to lead to the early resolution of disputes, will allow for more bespoke and family-focused solutions and will prevent children from experiencing the stress and trauma of court, especially as it is widely recognised that, as the Justice Committee heard from stakeholders during stage 1, courts are rarely the best place to resolve family disputes.

James Kelly

I support the amendments in the group. Scottish Women’s Aid and Children 1st raised some issues about protection for victims of domestic abuse. The pilot is the correct way to go. I support the minister’s assurance that she will work with Scottish Women’s Aid and Children 1st to ensure that their concerns are addressed. I also pay tribute to Margaret Mitchell for the work that she has done on this and as convener of the Justice Committee.

Liam McArthur

I echo James Kelly’s comments. I moved similar amendments on ADR at stage 2. I am grateful to Margaret Mitchell for her collaborative work with the Government. The concerns that James Kelly referred to needed to be addressed and we are now in a far better position. I thank them and I confirm our support.

Amendment 24 agreed to.

Section 11B—Mandatory mediation information meeting

Amendment 25 moved—[Ash Denham]—and agreed to.

Section 12—Factors to be considered before making order

Amendment 26 not moved.

Section 13A—Duty to consider child welfare when allowing access to information

Amendment 46 moved—[Liam McArthur].

The Presiding Officer

The question is, that amendment 46 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members: No.

The Presiding Officer

There will be a division on amendment 46, in the name of Liam McArthur. That will be a one-minute division. Members may cast their votes.

My apologies, colleagues. There are too many members who are unable to vote. I will temporarily suspend proceedings and rerun the vote.

17:59 Meeting suspended.  18:04 On resuming—  

The Presiding Officer

We will proceed with the division on amendment 46. This will be a one-minute division.

For

Adam, George (Paisley) (SNP)
Adamson, Clare (Motherwell and Wishaw) (SNP)
Allan, Dr Alasdair (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP)
Arthur, Tom (Renfrewshire South) (SNP)
Baker, Claire (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)
Beamish, Claudia (South Scotland) (Lab)
Beattie, Colin (Midlothian North and Musselburgh) (SNP)
Bibby, Neil (West Scotland) (Lab)
Brown, Keith (Clackmannanshire and Dunblane) (SNP)
Campbell, Aileen (Clydesdale) (SNP)
Coffey, Willie (Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley) (SNP)
Cole-Hamilton, Alex (Edinburgh Western) (LD)
Constance, Angela (Almond Valley) (SNP)
Crawford, Bruce (Stirling) (SNP)
Cunningham, Roseanna (Perthshire South and Kinross-shire) (SNP)
Denham, Ash (Edinburgh Eastern) (SNP)
Dey, Graeme (Angus South) (SNP)
Doris, Bob (Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn) (SNP)
Dornan, James (Glasgow Cathcart) (SNP)
Ewing, Annabelle (Cowdenbeath) (SNP)
Fabiani, Linda (East Kilbride) (SNP)
Fee, Mary (West Scotland) (Lab)
Findlay, Neil (Lothian) (Lab)
Finnie, John (Highlands and Islands) (Green)
FitzPatrick, Joe (Dundee City West) (SNP)
Forbes, Kate (Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch) (SNP)
Freeman, Jeane (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley) (SNP)
Gibson, Kenneth (Cunninghame North) (SNP)
Gilruth, Jenny (Mid Fife and Glenrothes) (SNP)
Gougeon, Mairi (Angus North and Mearns) (SNP)
Grahame, Christine (Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale) (SNP)
Grant, Rhoda (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)
Gray, Iain (East Lothian) (Lab)
Greer, Ross (West Scotland) (Green)
Griffin, Mark (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Harper, Emma (South Scotland) (SNP)
Harvie, Patrick (Glasgow) (Green)
Haughey, Clare (Rutherglen) (SNP)
Hepburn, Jamie (Cumbernauld and Kilsyth) (SNP)
Hyslop, Fiona (Linlithgow) (SNP)
Johnson, Daniel (Edinburgh Southern) (Lab)
Johnstone, Alison (Lothian) (Green)
Kelly, James (Glasgow) (Lab)
Kidd, Bill (Glasgow Anniesland) (SNP)
Lamont, Johann (Glasgow) (Lab)
Lennon, Monica (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Leonard, Richard (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Lochhead, Richard (Moray) (SNP)
Lyle, Richard (Uddingston and Bellshill) (SNP)
MacDonald, Angus (Falkirk East) (SNP)
MacDonald, Gordon (Edinburgh Pentlands) (SNP)
Macdonald, Lewis (North East Scotland) (Lab)
MacGregor, Fulton (Coatbridge and Chryston) (SNP)
Mackay, Rona (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (SNP)
Macpherson, Ben (Edinburgh Northern and Leith) (SNP)
Maguire, Ruth (Cunninghame South) (SNP)
Martin, Gillian (Aberdeenshire East) (SNP)
Mason, John (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)
Matheson, Michael (Falkirk West) (SNP)
McAlpine, Joan (South Scotland) (SNP)
McArthur, Liam (Orkney Islands) (LD)
McDonald, Mark (Aberdeen Donside) (Ind)
McKee, Ivan (Glasgow Provan) (SNP)
McKelvie, Christina (Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse) (SNP)
McMillan, Stuart (Greenock and Inverclyde) (SNP)
McNeill, Pauline (Glasgow) (Lab)
Neil, Alex (Airdrie and Shotts) (SNP)
Paterson, Gil (Clydebank and Milngavie) (SNP)
Rennie, Willie (North East Fife) (LD)
Robison, Shona (Dundee City East) (SNP)
Ross, Gail (Caithness, Sutherland and Ross) (SNP)
Rowley, Alex (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)
Rumbles, Mike (North East Scotland) (LD)
Ruskell, Mark (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Green)
Sarwar, Anas (Glasgow) (Lab)
Smith, Elaine (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Smyth, Colin (South Scotland) (Lab)
Somerville, Shirley-Anne (Dunfermline) (SNP)
Stevenson, Stewart (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)
Stewart, David (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)
Stewart, Kevin (Aberdeen Central) (SNP)
Todd, Maree (Highlands and Islands) (SNP)
Torrance, David (Kirkcaldy) (SNP)
Watt, Maureen (Aberdeen South and North Kincardine) (SNP)
Wheelhouse, Paul (South Scotland) (SNP)
White, Sandra (Glasgow Kelvin) (SNP)
Wightman, Andy (Lothian) (Green)
Wishart, Beatrice (Shetland Islands) (LD)
Yousaf, Humza (Glasgow Pollok) (SNP)

Against

Balfour, Jeremy (Lothian) (Con)
Ballantyne, Michelle (South Scotland) (Con)
Bowman, Bill (North East Scotland) (Con)
Briggs, Miles (Lothian) (Con)
Burnett, Alexander (Aberdeenshire West) (Con)
Cameron, Donald (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Carlaw, Jackson (Eastwood) (Con)
Carson, Finlay (Galloway and West Dumfries) (Con)
Chapman, Peter (North East Scotland) (Con)
Corry, Maurice (West Scotland) (Con)
Davidson, Ruth (Edinburgh Central) (Con)
Ewing, Fergus (Inverness and Nairn) (SNP)
Fraser, Murdo (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Golden, Maurice (West Scotland) (Con)
Greene, Jamie (West Scotland) (Con)
Hamilton, Rachael (Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire) (Con)
Halcro Johnston, Jamie (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Kerr, Liam (North East Scotland) (Con)
Lockhart, Dean (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Mason, Tom (North East Scotland) (Con)
Mitchell, Margaret (Central Scotland) (Con)
Mundell, Oliver (Dumfriesshire) (Con)
Scott, John (Ayr) (Con)
Simpson, Graham (Central Scotland) (Con)
Smith, Liz (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Stewart, Alexander (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Tomkins, Adam (Glasgow) (Con)
Wells, Annie (Glasgow) (Con)
Whittle, Brian (South Scotland) (Con)

The Presiding Officer

The result of the division is: For 89, Against 29, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 46 agreed to.

Section 15A—Duty to ensure availability of child advocacy services

The Presiding Officer

Group 9 is on the duty to ensure availability of child advocacy services. Amendment 27, in the name of Ash Denham, is grouped with amendments 28 to 30.

Ash Denham

The amendments in group 9 make minor and technical adjustments to the provision that was agreed at stage 2 that places a duty on the Scottish ministers to make child advocacy services available. Put simply, they move the place at which the bill will insert text into the 1995 act, for a better fit with that act’s structure, and they make a technical correction to the way in which section 11 cases are described.

I move amendment 27.

Amendment 27 agreed to.

Amendments 28 to 30 moved—[Ash Denham]—and agreed to.

Section 16—Failure to obey order

Amendment 31 moved—[Ash Denham]—and agreed to.

After section 16

Amendments 32 and 33 moved—[Ash Denham]—and agreed to.

The Presiding Officer

Group 10 is on the duty to ensure system of redress. Amendment 47, in the name of John Finnie, is the only amendment in the group.

John Finnie

I do not think that anyone doubts that the bill is a positive step forward in acknowledging children’s rights and that it is a further step in enhancing compliance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

As we have heard, parliamentarians are very familiar with the concept that children’s views are not always heard in disputes about contact. It is certainly the view of Scottish Women’s Aid, Children 1st, the Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland and others that children must be active participants, not casual observers, in decisions about their future.

The problems that have been alluded to are partly the result of our adversarial legal system, which deals with disputes about contact as being between adults and tries to keep children out of the dispute, in which children rarely have any legal status and in which their rights risk being at the discretion and behest of adults—be they parents or court personnel.

All too often, children’s experiences are disempowering and distressing as cases proceed through the legal system. The bill’s real progress on children’s participation rights—the fundamental change that the bill drives—is the presumption that a child has the capacity to express a view. The bill requires the court to explain its decision. It places a duty on the Scottish ministers to ensure the availability of child advocacy services—which, children consistently tell us, would help most.

At the moment, there is a process for appeals, but it is, of course, designed by and for adults, and it is not accessible to children. It requires a parent to raise an appeal on behalf of the child or a child to become party to the dispute and to access legal aid for their own independent representation. However, becoming party to the dispute is not an easy task for a child, especially when their access to legal aid depends on parental income and when the child may be expressing views that are contrary to those of a parent.

Without an accessible system of redress, children struggle to claim their rights to participate in major decisions that affect their lives. If a child has not been given the choice to give their views, they currently find it very hard to reverse that decision. If a court report is written about a child, the child has no way to disagree with what it says—and research has shown that some children felt that their views were misrepresented or that their substance had changed in the reporting to the court. One child from whom we heard at the Justice Committee urged those tasked with taking children’s views to think about what they were writing, because they had changed what the child had said.

Of course, without an accessible mechanism for redress, children cannot challenge that. My amendment 47 has the potential to bolster children’s rights further, making them both real and accessible to children. If amendment 47 is agreed to, it will require the Scottish ministers to introduce a system of redress for children, should children feel that their participation rights have been breached.

The amendment requires the Scottish ministers to make regulations, without being prescriptive about the contents,

“as they consider necessary and expedient to establish an effective, child-sensitive redress scheme.”

For that to be meaningful, there will have to be engagement, not least with young people. I hope that the adoption of best practice—a rights-based approach to all proceedings—means that the provision in amendment 47 would rarely be used. However, I believe that it is, nonetheless, necessary.

Subsection (3) of the section that amendment 47 would introduce talks about where

“actions have been taken for the purpose of securing the child’s best interests.”

This is therefore not about a blanket approach or a grievance approach, as decisions will have to be taken that children will inevitably not agree with; it is about an evidence-based, rights-based approach to all decisions, and it will complement the other provisions in the bill.

Members will note that Scottish Women’s Aid, Children 1st, the Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland and others have endorsed the approach that is taken in amendment 47 and that it is cited in the widely circulated blog by academics Fiona Morrison and Kay Tisdall. It is clear that the proposal in amendment 47 would afford children’s participation rights greater status. As is stated in the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child’s general comment 5 on the implementation of rights:

“For rights to have meaning, effective remedies must be available to redress violations.”

Amendment 47 has the potential to make children’s rights real in disputes about contact and to take us a step closer to—

Liam Kerr

I know that Mr Finnie is winding up, but this is the first time that we have seen the amendment. Why did he not introduce such an amendment earlier in the bill process?

John Finnie

I think that the amendment is a reasonable intervention to make, and I was not approached to make it. All the organisations that pay attention to our bill have regard to how things formulate as we go through, and it is clear to all those eminent people, such as the children’s commissioner, that there is a gap in the bill that amendment 47 would fill. As I said earlier, the issue is not that there is not a system of appeal at the moment; the issue is that it is adult focused. If we are to make the bill entirely child focused and move towards UNCRC compliance, amendment 47 is the way to do it.

Neil Findlay

I am trying to be helpful to Mr Finnie. The argument that Liam Kerr put forward is a red herring, because we are allowed to lodge amendments at any stage. In addition, during a bill process earlier in the year, Murdo Fraser introduced an entire member’s bill at stage 3 to be inserted into the legislation, but we heard no complaints from Mr Kerr at that point.

John Finnie

I hear what Mr Findlay says, but I do not want to get involved in a dispute about anything other than the merits of amendment 47—that is what is important here. Significant people who have regard for a rights-based approach for children have commended amendment 47, and I commend it to members for their support.

I move amendment 47.

Liam Kerr

I am sympathetic to what Mr Finnie is trying to do with amendment 47, and I listened carefully to what he said. In my intervention, I was not objecting to amendment 47 but making what I think is an important point about when we introduce amendments. I accept that amendment 47 is looking to address what appears to be a gap in the bill, and, because of the amendment’s emphasis on achieving the best outcome for the child, I support its intentions. My concern is that it is a significant amendment to be introducing at this stage.

I will keep my remarks on the amendment brief. I do not see a definition in it of “redress”, and I do not think that any consultation has been done on the amendment previously. One of the representations that we received in favour of amendment 47 says that, if the Scottish Government were to meet effectively the obligations that the amendment would impose, it would need to work out how such a system would operate and it would have to involve young people. There is a whole lot of work to be done here.

Amendments of such an extent need to be subject to more consultation and scrutiny than is allowed when an amendment is lodged at this stage. I am afraid that, at this stage, my objections to amendment 47 stand.

18:15  

James Kelly

I support amendment 47, which is important because, although the bill is good and has been welcomed by members across the Parliament, if we pass it without agreeing to amendment 47 it will fall short of the UNCRC standards in relation to a system of redress.

Ash Denham

I point out to the member, for clarity, that a requirement for child-friendly redress is not in the UNCRC itself; it is in general comment 5.

James Kelly

The point remains that the bill should provide for a system of redress, and the Parliament would fail in its obligations if it did not take a serious look at and agree to amendment 47.

Liam Kerr

Mr Kelly makes an important point. Deep down, I would like amendment 47 to be agreed to. However, we have not scrutinised it. We have not taken the time—as we would normally do at stage 2—to take a step back and really examine the legislation that we are passing. That is why I have such a concern.

James Kelly

If we accept the arguments that the member and the minister are making, we are simply putting our heads in the sand and missing an opportunity to do our best to serve the children whom the bill sets out to look after.

I support amendment 47. It has the support of Scottish Women’s Aid, Children 1st and the children’s commissioner. There is substantial support for the proposed approach, and its inclusion in the bill at stage 3 would complete the bill and make it a lot more comprehensive. I urge members to support amendment 47.

Ash Denham

I appreciate the concerns that John Finnie has expressed. I agree with him that, if a child or young person has concerns about how their court case has been handled, those concerns need to be taken seriously and listened to. Ensuring that the views of the child are heard is a key aim of the bill.

However, I am unable to support amendment 47. It comes very late in the day, as Liam Kerr said, and we have not had the opportunity to consider it earlier in the bill process. The matter was not raised in the stage 2 debates, and a number of issues need to be clarified through consultation and parliamentary debate before such an amendment finds its way on to the statute book.

For a start, it is not clear from amendment 47 what a redress scheme would entail. What does the member think is appropriate redress if a child feels that their views have not been heard in a contact or residence case? Is it financial compensation? Is it a complaints mechanism with an apology? Does it involve reopening the decision? How does that sit alongside existing appeal processes, which amendment 47 would not affect, and the ability to vary the order?

John Finnie

I will cover a lot of those points when I sum up, but such matters are all to be flushed out in the regulations. If the concerns are being taken seriously, does the minister take issue with what I said about there being very much an adult-based approach at the moment? We are talking about a system of appeal. We can call it “redress”; the term is in common parlance—but I will come back to that. How are children’s concerns being taken seriously at the moment, when adults predominate in the system?

Ash Denham

That is a good point, but the point that I am trying to make is that amendment 47 does not define “redress” or provide clarity. It is all very well for the member to say that matters can be worked out in the regulations, but we are talking about an entirely new scheme, so I do not think that that would be appropriate.

On the member’s point about whether children’s concerns are being taken seriously and whether what we have at the moment is child friendly, I agree with him that it is not. That is why we are including child-friendly complaint mechanisms in the bill. I will talk about those in a moment. I take the member’s point; however, we are addressing that issue with this bill.

The extent to which a redress scheme might cut across existing remedies if a child is unhappy about the procedure or the outcome of the court order would need to be considered very carefully. A child can already apply to the court to vary the order, and there are organisations—such as Clan Childlaw and the Scottish Child Law Centre—that provide representation for children.

A curator ad litem could be appointed to represent a younger child’s interests, and we propose to regulate them similarly to the way in which child welfare reporters are regulated. I reassure the member and the chamber that the Government is doing work in that area. As we have discussed today, the bill will improve the ways in which children can effectively participate in section 11 cases. The Government has shared with key stakeholders guidance for children on child welfare reporters. That includes information about how a child can complain and about the conduct of a child welfare reporter, which, I believe, addresses one of the points that Mr Finnie made in his opening remarks.

The Scottish Government has plans for the regulation of child welfare reporters to ensure that there is a child-friendly complaints mechanism. I would be very happy to discuss that further with the member, and I reassure him, again, that that will be part of a full public consultation and that the eligibility criteria and standards for child welfare reporters will be part of that.

The Scottish Government will ensure that, once regulated, there is also a child-friendly complaints mechanism in place for contact centres. It will also ensure that the body that is appointed to oversee the contact centre can act on any complaints that are raised.

Section 16, which covers failure to comply with an order, will mean that if, for example, a child refuses to have contact with a parent, the court will be required to investigate the reasons for that. Section 15 requires the court to explain decisions to a child in child-friendly language as well. Section 15A requires the Scottish ministers to establish “child advocacy services” as they see necessary to facilitate participation.

Members have already voted on Liam McArthur’s amendment 48, which requires the effectiveness of the bill’s provisions in facilitating children’s participation to be reviewed in five years. That requirement for a review will ensure that any future Government will look again to see whether the reforms have worked out, and, if it finds that further improvements need to be made, it will be able to provide a prompt evidence base for starting to look seriously at the matter in a considered way.

Given the uncertainties that I have laid out about amendment 47—including what it would mean in practice, and given the work that is already under way to enhance children’s rights—I ask members to reject the amendment.

John Finnie

I thank all those who have participated in the debate. I agree with a lot of what has been said. There is a lack of definition and there has been no consultation on the regulations, but that is precisely why subsection (4) of the section that amendment 47 would introduce refers to the regulations under subsection (1) being “subject to the affirmative procedure”. There is no doubt that there would be scrutiny, and there is no doubt that there is a gap.

Of course, there is a whole load of work to be done—the minister would be wrong to construe anything that I have said as meaning otherwise. As I said, the bill is a great step forward. Nonetheless, although I accept what the minister has said about the child-friendly system, the reality is that significant children’s charities and, importantly, the children’s commissioner, have identified a gap. I hope that I was correct in saying that general comment 1 of the UNCRC is the source of the reference that I made to the shortcomings.

I do not doubt that the issue will be revisited at some future point. During this meeting, we have talked about the barnahus model, the progress that is going to be made and the child-centred approach that will be taken, but the present system has a gap. This is an opportunity to fill it, and I hope that members will take that opportunity by voting for the amendment.

The Presiding Officer

The question is, that amendment 47 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members: No.

The Presiding Officer

There will be a division. I encourage members to refresh their screens. If there is any difficulty, log out and log in again to refresh your screen, and that should bring the page up again.

For

Baker, Claire (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)
Beamish, Claudia (South Scotland) (Lab)
Bibby, Neil (West Scotland) (Lab)
Cole-Hamilton, Alex (Edinburgh Western) (LD)
Fee, Mary (West Scotland) (Lab)
Findlay, Neil (Lothian) (Lab)
Finnie, John (Highlands and Islands) (Green)
Grant, Rhoda (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)
Gray, Iain (East Lothian) (Lab)
Greer, Ross (West Scotland) (Green)
Griffin, Mark (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Harvie, Patrick (Glasgow) (Green)
Johnson, Daniel (Edinburgh Southern) (Lab)
Johnstone, Alison (Lothian) (Green)
Kelly, James (Glasgow) (Lab)
Lamont, Johann (Glasgow) (Lab)
Lennon, Monica (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Leonard, Richard (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Macdonald, Lewis (North East Scotland) (Lab)
McArthur, Liam (Orkney Islands) (LD)
McDonald, Mark (Aberdeen Donside) (Ind)
McNeill, Pauline (Glasgow) (Lab)
Rennie, Willie (North East Fife) (LD)
Rumbles, Mike (North East Scotland) (LD)
Ruskell, Mark (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Green)
Sarwar, Anas (Glasgow) (Lab)
Smith, Elaine (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Smyth, Colin (South Scotland) (Lab)
Stewart, David (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)
Wightman, Andy (Lothian) (Green)
Wishart, Beatrice (Shetland Islands) (LD)

Against

Adam, George (Paisley) (SNP)
Adamson, Clare (Motherwell and Wishaw) (SNP)
Allan, Dr Alasdair (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP)
Arthur, Tom (Renfrewshire South) (SNP)
Balfour, Jeremy (Lothian) (Con)
Ballantyne, Michelle (South Scotland) (Con)
Beattie, Colin (Midlothian North and Musselburgh) (SNP)
Bowman, Bill (North East Scotland) (Con)
Briggs, Miles (Lothian) (Con)
Brown, Keith (Clackmannanshire and Dunblane) (SNP)
Burnett, Alexander (Aberdeenshire West) (Con)
Cameron, Donald (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Campbell, Aileen (Clydesdale) (SNP)
Carlaw, Jackson (Eastwood) (Con)
Carson, Finlay (Galloway and West Dumfries) (Con)
Chapman, Peter (North East Scotland) (Con)
Coffey, Willie (Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley) (SNP)
Constance, Angela (Almond Valley) (SNP)
Corry, Maurice (West Scotland) (Con)
Crawford, Bruce (Stirling) (SNP)
Cunningham, Roseanna (Perthshire South and Kinross-shire) (SNP)
Davidson, Ruth (Edinburgh Central) (Con)
Denham, Ash (Edinburgh Eastern) (SNP)
Dey, Graeme (Angus South) (SNP)
Doris, Bob (Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn) (SNP)
Dornan, James (Glasgow Cathcart) (SNP)
Ewing, Annabelle (Cowdenbeath) (SNP)
Ewing, Fergus (Inverness and Nairn) (SNP)
Fabiani, Linda (East Kilbride) (SNP)
FitzPatrick, Joe (Dundee City West) (SNP)
Forbes, Kate (Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch) (SNP)
Fraser, Murdo (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Freeman, Jeane (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley) (SNP)
Gibson, Kenneth (Cunninghame North) (SNP)
Gilruth, Jenny (Mid Fife and Glenrothes) (SNP)
Golden, Maurice (West Scotland) (Con)
Gougeon, Mairi (Angus North and Mearns) (SNP)
Grahame, Christine (Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale) (SNP)
Greene, Jamie (West Scotland) (Con)
Hamilton, Rachael (Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire) (Con)
Harper, Emma (South Scotland) (SNP)
Haughey, Clare (Rutherglen) (SNP)
Hepburn, Jamie (Cumbernauld and Kilsyth) (SNP)
Hyslop, Fiona (Linlithgow) (SNP)
Halcro Johnston, Jamie (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Kerr, Liam (North East Scotland) (Con)
Kidd, Bill (Glasgow Anniesland) (SNP)
Lochhead, Richard (Moray) (SNP)
Lockhart, Dean (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Lyle, Richard (Uddingston and Bellshill) (SNP)
MacDonald, Angus (Falkirk East) (SNP)
MacDonald, Gordon (Edinburgh Pentlands) (SNP)
MacGregor, Fulton (Coatbridge and Chryston) (SNP)
Mackay, Rona (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (SNP)
Macpherson, Ben (Edinburgh Northern and Leith) (SNP)
Maguire, Ruth (Cunninghame South) (SNP)
Martin, Gillian (Aberdeenshire East) (SNP)
Mason, John (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)
Mason, Tom (North East Scotland) (Con)
Matheson, Michael (Falkirk West) (SNP)
McAlpine, Joan (South Scotland) (SNP)
McKee, Ivan (Glasgow Provan) (SNP)
McKelvie, Christina (Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse) (SNP)
McMillan, Stuart (Greenock and Inverclyde) (SNP)
Mitchell, Margaret (Central Scotland) (Con)
Mundell, Oliver (Dumfriesshire) (Con)
Neil, Alex (Airdrie and Shotts) (SNP)
Paterson, Gil (Clydebank and Milngavie) (SNP)
Robison, Shona (Dundee City East) (SNP)
Ross, Gail (Caithness, Sutherland and Ross) (SNP)
Scott, John (Ayr) (Con)
Simpson, Graham (Central Scotland) (Con)
Smith, Liz (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Somerville, Shirley-Anne (Dunfermline) (SNP)
Stevenson, Stewart (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)
Stewart, Alexander (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Stewart, Kevin (Aberdeen Central) (SNP)
Todd, Maree (Highlands and Islands) (SNP)
Tomkins, Adam (Glasgow) (Con)
Torrance, David (Kirkcaldy) (SNP)
Watt, Maureen (Aberdeen South and North Kincardine) (SNP)
Wells, Annie (Glasgow) (Con)
Wheelhouse, Paul (South Scotland) (SNP)
White, Sandra (Glasgow Kelvin) (SNP)
Whittle, Brian (South Scotland) (Con)
Yousaf, Humza (Glasgow Pollok) (SNP)

The Presiding Officer

The result of the division is: For 31, Against 86, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 47 disagreed to.

The Presiding Officer

I am conscious of the fact that decision time is scheduled for half past 6 and we are almost there. I am, therefore, minded to accept a motion without notice to move decision time to 7 o’clock. Business managers have consulted, and we have agreed to shorten the debate following the amendment stage.

Motion moved,

That, under Rule 11.2.4, Decision Time be moved to 7.00 pm.—[Graeme Dey]

Motion agreed to.

Before section 17

The Presiding Officer

Group 11 is on children’s hearings: opportunity to participate. Amendment 34, in the name of the minister, is the only amendment in the group.

18:30  

Ash Denham

Amendment 34 will have a positive impact on children and young people who are cared for away from home. It will enable an individual to participate in a children’s hearing when they are not a “relevant person” but meet criteria as a qualifying sibling or relative.

The provisions, together with revised procedural rules, will allow such individuals certain rights, such as to be notified of a hearing, to be provided with paperwork that is relevant to them and to be able to attend and be represented. The detail on those rights will be set out in rules, which will be consulted on.

The provisions do not allow for a sibling’s right of appeal against the hearing’s decision. The United Kingdom Supreme Court, in the cases of ABC v Principal Reporter and XY v Principal Reporter in June this year, made it clear that the system is already flexible and is capable of being operated compliantly with the European convention on human rights for siblings. I hope that members agree that an appeal right would be disadvantageous overall, both to the child at the centre and to their siblings. Court proceedings are not the most appropriate forum for disputes over how long brothers and sisters should see each other for. That is better discussed in the less formal children’s hearings environment.

Instead, the amendment introduces review provisions that will have the effect of allowing a qualifying sibling or relative to request a further children’s hearing as long as three months have passed since the making of a compulsory supervision order in respect of the child. That will allow the hearing to keep the relationship between the child and their siblings under close review if needed, and it will permit quick adjustments to be made to measures in the child’s legal order. The child at the centre of the hearing and the relevant persons already have that review provision.

The independent care review made clear in its report “The Promise” that to be notified of children’s hearings and have an opportunity to participate meaningfully in decisions that affect them is crucial to brothers and sisters. I am delighted to be able to use the bill as a means to achieve that during the first year of the implementation of the promise.

I move amendment 34.

Amendment 34 agreed to.

Before section 22

Amendment 48 moved—[Liam McArthur]—and agreed to.

The Presiding Officer

That ends consideration of amendments. As members will be aware, at this stage in the proceedings, I am required under standing orders to decide whether, in my view, any provision in the bill relates to a protected subject matter—that is, whether it modifies the electoral system or the franchise for Scottish Parliament elections. As the bill does no such thing, it does not require a supermajority to be passed at stage 3.

There will be a short pause before we move on to the stage 3 debate.