Page last updated at 02:30 GMT, Sunday, 28 March 2010 03:30 UK

Call for child photo rule rethink

Girls playing on swing
Mr Baillie said it is important children have photos of their childhood

Councils across Scotland have widely different policies on parents photographing their children, a BBC Scotland investigation has found.

Parents and relatives in many areas have been prohibited from taking photographs by schools and local authorities.

In many cases, the bans are the result of staff not understanding the law.

Scottish Children's Commissioner Tam Baillie said the rules should be standardised across Scotland.

BBC Radio Scotland's The Investigation programme asked all 32 Scottish local authorities to outline their guidelines on photographing children in schools, swimming pools and leisure centres.

Their responses ranged from "we would ban them" to an 11-page policy document which mentioned paedophiles in the second sentence.

Because one parent doesn't want their child's picture taken, everybody else is missing out on the opportunity to photograph their children's experience
Fiona Whiteman, mother

One council spokesman said simply: "We don't have a policy" while another admitted: "Oh God, this is a minefield."

The patchwork picture across the country has left many parents confused about where and when they are able to photograph their children.

Fiona Whiteman, a mother of three from Livingston, was prevented from taking pictures of her daughter's nativity play because the parent of another child involved objected.

She was told that this was in line with West Lothian Council policy.

Ms Whiteman said: "I was slightly annoyed that, because one parent doesn't want their child's picture taken, everybody else is missing out on the opportunity to photograph their children's experience.

"I wanted pictures of my son with his small group of friends whose parents did not object, but we were just told 'no'."

June Savage, from Edinburgh, took her son to a soft play area in a council-owned leisure centre on his first birthday with two of his friends and their mothers.

But a member of staff at the centre told the mothers it was not acceptable for them to take photographs of their own children.

She said: "It was a bit farcical really because we were in the caged area of the soft play and the member of staff came up and spoke to us from the other side of the cage - we kind of felt like we were animals in the zoo or something.

"They were very polite about it and very nice but they were just quite firm and said 'look, we are really sorry but you are not allowed to take any photographs here. This is the policy and I'm afraid we have to ask you to stop'."

'Desire of parents

Children's Commissioner Tam Baillie said it was vital to children's development that they had photographic records of their development through childhood.

He added: "We all want to celebrate children's childhood and [photographs] can become some of the most treasured possessions for children, and indeed adults looking back on their childhood."

Mr Baillie said he believed councils would welcome MSPs helping to draw up standardised rules on taking photos of children, which ensured children were protected without infringing the right of parents.

He added: "These can sometimes be quite fraught decisions because of the complications of the legislation combined with a real desire of parents to celebrate childhood as children grow up. Some additional guidance on that would be quite helpful.

"I always want the children of this country to have the best childhood they possibly can. I want them to have a childhood that is free of discrimination, in a society that respects their rights, and where they can grow up with dignity.

"Some aspects of that are about having a record of your past and where you have come from. We know, for instance, for children who have got care experiences, how very important it is to have some representation of your childhood as you grow up."

Call Kaye with The Investigation will be broadcast on BBC Radio Scotland at 0845 BST on Monday 29 March.

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