Poll reveals anxiety over Scottish smacking ban

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Campaigners against the outlawing of smacking have said mothers are feeling “worn down” by the supporters of the ban after a poll suggested women are less strongly opposed to it than men.

The newly-established Be Reasonable Scotland campaign made the remarks in response to the findings of a ComRes poll it commissioned as it steps up its fight against the ban.

An opinion poll showed that 70 per cent of women are against smacking being criminalised. The corresponding figure for men was significantly higher. Photograph: John Devlin

An opinion poll showed that 70 per cent of women are against smacking being criminalised. The corresponding figure for men was significantly higher. Photograph: John Devlin

According to the poll of 1,010 Scottish adults, 80 per cent of men do not want to see smacking criminalised compared with 70 per cent of women.

It also showed that 71 per cent of men said it was sometimes necessary to smack a naughty child compared with 62 per cent of women.

Seventy-nine per cent of men and 77 per cent of women fear the ban will result in police and social workers being overwhelmed with “trivial cases” when the proposals to make smacking illegal are implemented.

The findings were released yesterday, just days after the Scottish Government last week confirmed that it will “ensure” the smacking ban, proposed in the Green MSP John Finnie’s member’s bill will become law.

Yesterday a spokesman for Be Reasonable said: “It’s no surprise that some mums feel worn down by the manipulative language of campaigners telling them what terrible parents they are if they occasionally use a mild smack.”

But the tone struck by the campaign when referring to mothers was criticised the SNP MSP Sandra White, who will vote for a ban when it comes before Holyrood.

White said: “Perhaps this reflects that some men are not hands on enough with their children. Perhaps if Be Reasonable recognised this then they wouldn’t be using derogatory language and talking about mums being ‘worn out’.”

Those against a ban say it will criminalise ordinary parents and argue existing laws are strong enough to deal with those who assault children. They also say public opinion is against the proposal, which is certain to go through parliament, having secured Scottish Government support.

The SNP, Greens and Labour have pledged to support Finnie’s bill.

Be Reasonable is calling for a fresh consultation exercise into the bill on the grounds that the existing one was carried out in the summer when people were on holiday. It was also conducted at a time when the government’s position was against criminalising parents.

Last night a Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “ We believe physical punishment can have negative effects on children which can last long after the physical pain has died away. The proposed legislation is not a government bill.”