Wednesday, 9 September 2009



SNP MSP Christina McKelvie has condemned a vote by Labour and the Lib Dems to deprive vulnerable adults within the Children’s Hearing system of legal support to enable them to participate fully in proceedings. The vote leaves the Scottish Government and the Children’s Hearing system in potential breach of European Human Rights Law.

The Scottish Government was seeking to ensure the system is compliant with European Human Rights Legislation by ensuring parents who may not be able to follow proceedings – for example due to mental disability in cases where their children may be taken from them – have access to state funded legal advice.

Legal support is already allowed within the system – but state support for those whose circumstances make representation essential, was not previously available.

The Scottish Government had introduced the measure during the summer, in light of a court case currently before the Court of Session, bringing the system into line with ECHR - however Parliamentary approval is required for it to continue. The decision of opposition members on the Education Committee to vote to annul the statutory instrument now puts the hearing’s system and it’s members facing a potential breach of Human Rights legislation.

Education Committee Ms McKelvie said:

“I am deeply disappointed with the actions of my fellow committee members. This should be about children not politics.

“By voting this move down opposition parties leave Scotland facing a slopping out situation all over again where the opportunity to correct a human rights wrong is not taken and the decisions of the Children’s panel and the actions of the government could be subject to review, appeal and compensation cases.

“Labour and the Lib Dems have voted to remove support for vulnerable people to participate in fundamental decisions over the future of their families.

“Participants in the Children’s Hearing system have long been entitled to legal representation and despite acknowledging that circumstances exist where state support for vulnerable adults is appropriate opposition politicians continued to vote against the Government’s move to put that representation in place. Now legal representation is only available to those who can afford it, not those whose circumstances mean they need it.

“They have acted with complete disregard to EU human rights legislation and to the consequences of their decision.

"This is about caring for people in poverty facing major decisions on their families future – it is a real condemnation of how far Labour and the Lib Dems have come from their principles that they would vote this measure down.

“By playing politics with sensitive issues opposition politicians have put the Children’s hearing system and it’s decisions at risk and created a slopping out mark two situation."

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