Neil Mackay has an interesting article in the Herald today and he is actually both right and wrong to be honest. The title is a little misleading as what he is really talking about is the controversial Health and Well Being census that the Scottish Government want to roll out to those over 12 and for the sexual health part over 14’s. Neil says that ” A TIDE of illiberalism has swept the western world over recent years and Scotland, just like the rest of the UK, is far from immune. In America today we see a woman’s right to control her own body, to have access to abortion, in peril of being swept away”.
The progress we made in the West from the late 1990s is now under threat as angry authoritarianism rises. Scotland is at risk of sliding back into bigotry, backwardness and bitterness. The recent moral panic surrounding sex education should make it clear to anyone in doubt that the liberal gains achieved over the last 20 years aren’t inviolable and can be rolled back. A cabal of voices – including some Conservatives and members of the Alba Party – whipped up the kind of confected outrage that’s not been seen since the days of Mary Whitehouse.
I suppose Alba members are always to blame for everything in Scotland these days and while I don’t agree with all of the concerns expressed by members of all parties on social media and in the press I am less inclined to get worked up by the issue due to the nature of my job as a Community Learning and Development Worker.
Now there are protections built into the census, parents can opt children out, and pupils can opt out themselves as Neil rightly says. Data gathered is confidential and anonymity preserved, again Neil is correct. However, if any red flags are noticed – evidence that a child is being sexually abused or at risk of other harms – then action can be taken to help the child concerned. My experience of GDPR is that the process is rigorous where I work and I also know that my colleagues would never accept anything less with this type of process and young people would always be given the right to opt out of the process.
Neil goes on to say “It should come as no surprise that among the voices protesting about sex education are those who’d limit or remove the right to abortion for women. What absolute wickedness these people – often posing as god-fearing Christians – would inflict on our young. They’d remove access to information which would help teenagers safely navigate the world of sex, yet put them in the position of having to deal with unwanted pregnancies or STDs”. Absolute rubbish to generalise so widely, while as I said I do not agree with all of the concerns raised I totally accept and agree that parents and others have the right to raise them, and to campaign against something they believe is a risk, to try to shut them up, is just plain wrong. Neil says “those opposed to it are also clearly playing dark political games”. Again, more generalised nonsense. Many of the voices trying to weaponize the safety and education of Scottish children are those who’d want to roll back rights not just for women but for minorities too”.
What can be more illiberal than shutting down all opinions because that is what I suspect Neil is implying here, that people with concerns should shut up. Scotland under the SNP Government is in danger of becoming an extremely illiberal country when the voices from all sides are not heard, when the courts and the police become arms of the state and debate is discouraged. Is Scotland an illiberal country? No it is not, yet, but if we can’t talk, debate, challenge, share or find common ground we are in danger of becoming just that.
Article is worth a read though.