JOHN Swinney has finally abandoned the Scottish Government’s controversial named person scheme after more than five years of failing to make it work in a legal and coherent way.

Labour accused the Education Secretary of the “mother and father of humiliating U-turns” after he said the 2014 law behind the state guardian plan would be repealed without being used.

However the Deputy First Minister refused to apologise to MSPs for the long and costly climbdown, saying the Government’s goal had been to improve the protection of vulnerable children.

“I will not apologise for trying to find the best way to try to do that,” he said.

It was the second high-profile retreat for Mr Swinney in just a few months.

In June, he shelved an education bill which was initially touted as the centrepiece of the Government’s legislative programme after it too proved to be unworkable in practice.

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The decision to ditch the named person plan was revealed by The Herald website yesterday morning, prompting Holyrood’s Presiding Officer to complain to the Government about a leak. Dubbed a “snooper’s charter” by critics, named persons was introduced to support the Scottish Government’s child protection policy Getting it right for every child (Girfec).

The scheme would have seen a named person – typically a teacher or health visitor – act as a clear point of contact for every child from birth until the age of 18.

Ministers insisted it would formalise practices that were already in place in many parts of the country.

However the plan faced a fierce backlash from parents and the professionals expected to put it into effect, and was the subject of a series of legal challenges, which cost taxpayers more than £800,000 to defend.

In 2016, the UK Supreme Court ruled that while the law establishing it, the Children and Young People Act of 2014, was “unquestionably legitimate and benign” in its aims, a central proposal to share information about children across various agencies was unlawful.

In particular, the court said it would breach rights to privacy and family life under the European Convention on Human Rights.

In response, Mr Swinney set up an expert panel to rewrite guidance to make the act compliant with the law and satisfy the court’s concerns.

But last month the panel effectively gave up, reporting that redesigned information-sharing guidance was not the right thing to do and it was not possible to come up with workable rules that were easy for people to understand.

Mr Swinney said parts four and five of the 2014 act would be repealed and an information-sharing bill meant to fix the first problems would now be withdrawn.

He told MSPs: “We will now not underpin in law the mandatory named person scheme for every child.

“Instead, existing voluntary schemes that provide a point of contact for support will continue, under current legal powers, when councils and health boards wish to provide them and parents wish to use them.

“In that way, we will support our children and young people, so that they can thrive and rise to the challenges and opportunities that life brings.”

Simon Calvert, of the No to Named Persons campaign, which supported the Supreme Court challenge, said: “John Swinney has finally done the right thing – but not before time. This is good news for families all across Scotland and it’s a great relief for a lot of people.

“I think he still owes an apology to families for insisting on still trying to get legislation through that breached their human rights, and he has a big job of work to do to unpick all of the legally inaccurate training that his Government has been giving to officials all across Scotland for years.”

Tory MSP Liz Smith said: “This is a complete humiliation for the SNP.

“John Swinney should apologise to all the professionals on the front line faced with endless bureaucracy around this policy and the anxiety of not knowing where their legal responsibilities lay. It is very welcome news that this policy will now be consigned to the dustbin.”

Labour’s Iain Gray said: “This whole process has been a shambles. The principle of the named person scheme was a good one but it has been destroyed by the incompetence of successive SNP ministers.”

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“They lost control of the policy, lost the confidence and support of practitioners, parents and the public, then lost the challenge in the supreme court.

“To have to abandon one bill and repeal another in one day is an unprecedented humiliation for John Swinney.

“It is not the first time either – he had to drop his flagship education bill.

“John Swinney was meant to be a ‘safe pair of hands’, but he has dropped the ball yet again.”

LibDem MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton added: “This is yet another humiliation for the Education Secretary and his Government.

“The Scottish Government has wasted years of time and the goodwill of the people from the children’s sector involved in the policy. It lost the confidence of parents and frontline professionals. We all want to see mechanisms to help keep children safe but this SNP plan was impossible to implement.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We are investigating how details of the statement were reported on before they were communicated to Parliament.”