Scotland ‘must legally outlaw parents smacking children’

Tam Baillie, commissioner for children and young people in Scotland
. Picture: Neil Hanna
Tam Baillie, commissioner for children and young people in Scotland . Picture: Neil Hanna
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Scotland is lagging behind countries seen as a “pariah states” by failing to legally outlaw parents smacking children, Scotland’s Children’s Commissioner has said.

Tam Baillie has campaigned for the Scottish Government to scrap the law which enables parents to use a defence of justifiable assault for hitting their children, in his eight years as commissioner.

Mr Baillie, whose term of office ends on May 17, said Scotland is one of only five countries in Europe which do not give children and adults equal protection from assault, with Lithuania having banned hitting children as punishment while Zimbabwe outlawed smacking in the home.

“Zimbabwe is an oppressive regime, seen by much of the Western world as a pariah state - but even children in Zimbabwe get better protection than they would in Scotland,” he told the Herald.

“The Scottish Government has an ambition for Scotland to be the best country in the world to bring up children. How can we claim that as long as we maintain this tradition of physical punishment?”

Mr Baillie refuted arguments by those against a smacking ban who claim it would interfere with parents’ rights and risks criminalising them for disciplining their children.

He said international evidence pointed to smacking bans leading to a drop in physical assault of children, and added: “Ireland changed the law and it has not resulted in parents being criminalised or being unable to control their children.

“There has been some evidence of a rise in people seeking help when they are in difficulties. There are other ways of being able to parent your child.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Our Child Protection Improvement Programme will ensure every child in Scotland at risk of harm or abuse receives the best possible support and protection.

“We do not support physical punishment and we do not consider it effective.

“We do not, however, support a ban as we do not think that would be appropriate and effective.”

He highlighted that an independently chaired review of the child protection system recently found it generally worked well to protect children or young people at risk of harm or who have been harmed and that the government accepted all the recommendations of the review.