Petitions Committee backs further moves on unmarried fathers and birth re-registration

Earlier this year Ron Park submitted a petition to the Scottish Parliament raising various problems faced by unmarried fathers in Scotland.

When his petition was discussed by the Public Petitions Committee on 6th May and the committee then asked various bodies, including Families Need Fathers Scotland to submit further evidence.  A wide range of submissions were made to the committee, indicating both importance of this issue and the controversy it raises.

The Scottish Government Public Petitions Committee at their meeting on 5th August supported further consideration of various aspects of Ron Park’s petition.

Jackson Carlaw MSP called on Community Safety and Legal Affairs Minister Roseanna Cunningham to reconsider her statement to the committee that bracketed together women who become pregnant through rape and those who become pregnant through brief affairs.  

As FNF Scotland pointed out, the Minister unhelpfully joins together women who have been raped with those who have become pregnant through a brief relationship and suggests it is not “fair” that they should have to go to court to have Parental Rights and Parental Responsibilities removed.  In equalities terms it is difficult to see how it can be “fair” for a father to be denied involvement or even knowledge of his child even if it is the result of a brief relationship.

We would not expect women who have conceived after rape to be required to name the father.

However, we feel it is incumbent on the Minister to disaggregate the numbers to give a sense of how many of the 3,009 (5.2%) sole registered births in 2012 are the result of rape and incest.

The Committee agreed to further pursue the Government’s views on four matters raised in the responses to Mr Park’s petition:

  • Families Need Fathers Scotland’s proposal that mothers should provide a reason when registering a birth without providing the father’s name; 
  • The Law Society of Scotland’s proposal that courts be given the power to order DNA tests when seeking to determine paternity; 
  • CLAN Childlaw’s suggestion that the question of whether all fathers should automatically have Parental Rights and Parental Responsibilities be referred to the Scottish Law Commission for consideration of inclusion in a future programme; and
  • Why it considers that the prospect of a mother raising proceedings to remove PRRs from a man with whom she had had a brief (consensual) relationship would be unfair.

Ian Maxwell from Families Need Fathers Scotland commented:

“This response from the Committee shows that Ron Park has raised some very valid questions about the way unmarried fathers are treated in Scotland.  As the response from Clan Childlaw pointed out, 3009 births in Scotland were registered without details of the father in 2012.”

“Although sole registration accounts for only 5.2% of live births, this means that nearly 50,000 Scottish children don’t have the father’s name on their birth certificate.   Even if some of these gaps are for valid reasons such as rape or incest or because the father’s identity is genuinely unknown, that still leaves a substantial number of Scottish children who are being denied knowledge of who their father is.” 

“We welcome the Scottish Government’s offer to undertake a consultation on the procedures for re-registering births to include the father’s name, and hope that the Minister will reconsider her approach to unmarried fathers who have positive reasons for wanting involvement with their children, in line with her Government’s recent National Parenting Strategy which supports involvement of fathers.”