THE Church of Scotland and the Government have clashed over plans to give every Scots child a personal guardian.
Scotland for Marriage, the main group which opposed same-sex marriage, was buoyed by the Kirk's support last night after it also turned its guns on new child protection legislation, claiming it was "anti-family".
The proposals, designed to stop abused children slipping through the net between services, would create a "named person" who would act as a focus for any concerns about the child's welfare. This includes being a first point of contact for parents.
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A similar system in the Highlands proved highly successful with parents.
But the Rev Sally Foster-Fulton, convener of the Church of Scotland's Church and Society Council, said: "The family is the fundamental unit of society. The concept of a named person diminishes the role of parents, with no obvious benefit for the most vulnerable in society, a point we have consistently made in our responses to the Scottish Government and to the Parliament's Education Committee.
"MSPs must ask themselves: will this proposal do anything other than reduce the time professionals, such as nurses and school staff, have to support children who really need help, without providing a useful service to anyone else?"
Aileen Campbell, minister for children and young people, writing in The Herald today, dismisses "misunderstanding and misrepresentation" giving rise to claims of "state snoopers" which she said are demonstrably untrue.
The Government's guardian proposals are backed by children's charities.
Anne Houston, Children 1st chief executive, said: "For 130 years, first as the RSSPCC and now as Children 1st, we have been putting the needs of children first and we support the idea of the named person.
"We need to find common ground on this by focusing on what children need to live healthy, happy and secure lives.
"Unfortunately not every child can rely on their parent or carer to always act in their best interests, and we know that some vulnerable children can and do slip through the net, sometimes with tragic consequences.
"Sharing information and following up on any concerns such information provides is crucial. The named person should act as first point of contact for a child, for a parent or carer trying to get support from other agencies and struggling with the processes involved, and for anyone who has concerns about a child and isn't clear what to do about it. The named person would pull together all that information and, crucially, put the child at the centre."
Jackie Brock, chief executive of Children in Scotland, said: "We believe that some of the opposition to this element of the bill is a result of a mis-understanding of what the named person will actually involve.
"The role of a primary point of contact available to all children and families is a step towards ending silo thinking and is merely the formalisation of practice that already exists across the country."
Scotland for Marriage, which claims it will mobilise a database of more than 50,000 people angered by same-sex marriage legislation passed last week, has also had support on that issue from the Catholic Church and the Free Church of Scotland.
The group's spokesman said: "A central plank of Scotland for Marriage's work will be defending those whose beliefs in traditional marriage get them into trouble."
It removed the addresses of supporters when it handed in a petition containing the names of almost 55,000 who opposed gay marriage last month.
In an email to supporters, the group stated: "We take your civil liberties seriously, and that's why when we handed in the petition it was a redacted version."