Charities want ministers to make smacking children criminal offence

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Leading charities and pressure groups have called on the Scottish government to outlaw the smacking of children, claiming that introducing such a ban is “the right thing to do”.

The appeal came after The Scotsman revealed that Scotland’s children’s minister Aileen Campbell said that “any form” of physical punishment can damage the long-term wellbeing of youngsters, but stated there are no current plans to change the law and ban the practice.

However, ministers have been urged to back a ban in a letter to The Scotsman signed by officials from children’s charities such as Barnardo’s Scotland, NSPCC Scotland, Children in Scotland, as well as groups including Scottish Women’s Aid and Social Work Scotland.

They state that the government would not need to create a new offence and would instead only need to offer “children and adults the same protection from assault”. The letter, which is also signed by Tam Baillie, Children and Young People’s Commissioner in Scotland, says bans on smacking in other nations have not led to a surge in parental prosecutions.

In Scotland, the practice of smacking children is still allowed in law as long as it is deemed to be “reasonable chastisement”. MSPs should show “commitment and leadership” to outlaw such punishment “because it is the right thing to do”, the campaigners say.