Ordinary Scots will be criminalised with smacking ban

Advocates for a ban were given a major boost in Nicola Sturgeons Programme for Government.
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Opponents of plans to outlaw smacking children are preparing to campaign against the proposed ban by arguing that it will criminalise thousands of ordinary Scottish parents.

The Scotsman understands that family organisations and individuals are planning to launch a campaign in October after advocates for a ban were given a major boost in Nicola Sturgeon’s Programme for Government.

The Green MSP John Finnie has put forward a member’s bill that would ban smacking by calling for the removal of the defence of “justifiable assault” which allows parents to use physical punishment to admonish a child. When she unveiled her legislative programme, Ms Sturgeon said the Scottish Government would not oppose Mr Finnie’s plan “to prohibit the physical punishment of children”.

Plans to ban smacking in Wales have led to a backlash from parents with campaigners setting up a “Be Reasonable Wales” campaign in order to fight against the proposal.

Alistair Thompson of Be Reasonable Wales said people in Scotland had been in touch about setting up an equivalent organisation.

A name has yet to be chosen for the Scottish campaign and the hunt is on for an individual who can be the public face of the organisation.

Mr Thompson said: “There seems to be a reasonable number of people and organisations in Scotland who are concerned about the impact of this type of legislation and have been in touch.

“I would think there would be MSPs from across the political spectrum who will have reservations about this type of legislation which could potentially criminalise ordinary loving parents just trying to do their best to raise their kids.”

Be Reasonable Wales has shared details of its ComRes polling on attitudes towards smacking with those who have been in touch from Scotland. The poll showed that 85 per cent of people in Wales were smacked as children and 76 per cent are opposed to making parental smacking of children a criminal offence, while nearly 80 per cent are concerned it will make it harder for police and social services to tackle actual child abuse.

Under Scottish law, parents can claim a defence of “justifiable assault” when punishing their child. But section 51 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003 prohibits the use of an “implement” in the punishment. It also bans parents from shaking their child or striking them on their head.

This summer Scotland’s new children’s commissioner, Bruce Adamson, joined his predecessor Tam Baillie in criticising the country’s attitude towards smacking.

Mr Finnie said: “Given the high level of support for my proposal from the public, from children’s charities and the police, it’s hard to imagine how any attempt to allow the continued assaulting of children could be viewed as ‘reasonable’. Giving children the same level of protection from assault that adults have will bring Scotland into line with other countries, and reflects most parents’ understanding that physical punishment simply doesn’t work.”

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