Scot Govt must not ride roughshod over family freedoms

28, February 2023

Parents, buckle your seatbelts once again, as the Scottish Government prepares to bring forward another piece of legislation which threatens to criminalise you.

This time it is to do with broad proposals to ban conversion therapy.

A recent legal opinion by leading human rights KC Aidan O’Neill warned: “these proposals would also criminalise parents who lovingly and in good faith and in accordance with their own best judgment and conscience seek to caution their children in relation to any stated intention to embark on… ‘gender transition’”.

He added: “The giving of such parental advice might result, were the [Scottish Government’s] Expert Group’s recommendation to be followed into law, in these parents being deprived of their parental rights and/or their children removed from their care.”

So, even if…

  • - you’re a loving parent
  • - acting in good faith
  • - acting in accordance with your best judgment and conscience

…you could still be criminalised for simply seeking to caution your own child in the area of gender and sexuality.

This is very concerning to say the least.

O’Neill was analysing recommendations to the Scottish Government on conversion therapy from its so-called ‘Expert Advisory Group’.

The Group recommends that the definition of conversion therapy: “must be wide enough to encompass all acts and practices that seek to change, suppress, or inhibit someone’s sexual orientation, expression of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression”.

So if a mum believes in biological sex and tries to discuss this with her daughter who is experiencing confusion about the matter, this could be interpreted as seeking to “change, suppress, or inhibit” the child’s gender identity.

And the Group’s solution is draconian. Under the section of the report titled “Children subject to conversion practices”, the Group states: “where the perpetrator of any of the criminalised acts has parental or guardianship rights in relation to the victim, the legal consequences may include the modification or withdrawal of such rights. Where parents or guardians have engaged in conversion practices, the modification or even withdrawal of their parental or guardianship rights is envisaged as an option.”

So unless mums and dads adopt the liberal ideologies of the state, they could face having their children taken away.

This is not the first time parents have been in the firing line.

Remember the controversial ‘Named Person scheme’?

The Government tried to appoint a state guardian to monitor the wellbeing of every child in Scotland, but in 2016 the ‘Named Person scheme’ was struck down by the UK Supreme Court for breaching human rights. 

The Court cautioned: “The first thing that a totalitarian regime tries to do is to get at the children, to distance them from the subversive, varied influences of their families, and indoctrinate them in their rulers’ view of the world.”

The justices went on to conclude that the legislation: “may in practice result in a disproportionate interference with the article 8 rights of many children, young persons and their parents…”

In 2020 a smacking ban came into force in Scotland, which would criminalise parents for giving their child a light tap on the hand as a form of discipline.

Even though Ministers repeatedly denied that parents would be criminalised during the passage of the Bill, the Government produced guidance urging the public to phone 999 to ‘report a crime in progress’ if they saw a parent smacking their child.

In 2021, Holyrood voted to back a Hate Crime Bill, which included criminalising family discussions in the home. For example, if a teenager disagreed with something their parent said and decided it was offensive, instead of it just being a family disagreement, they could report the parents to the police. This legislation is so bad the Government hasn’t been able to bring it into force yet and may never be able to.

The Scottish Government must stop proposing repressive legislation which rides roughshod over the freedom of parents to lovingly raise their children in accordance with their own values.

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