Committee stacked to back smacking ban, claim opponents

At present Scottish parents can claim a defence of 'justifiable assault' if they smack their children. Picture: Getty
At present Scottish parents can claim a defence of 'justifiable assault' if they smack their children. Picture: Getty
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Plans to outlaw smacking in Scotland are to be scrutinised by a Scottish Parliament committee chaired by the daughter of the MSP behind the ban, it has emerged.

The move to put Holyrood’s Equality and Human Rights Committee in charge of examining the controversial proposal has angered those campaigning against the ban. The convener of the Equality Committee is the SNP MSP for Cunninghame South, Ruth Maguire, who happens to be the daughter of the Green MSP, John Finnie, who proposed the anti-smacking member’s bill.

The anti-ban group “Be Reasonable Scotland” has questioned how the committee can be “fair and reasonable” given at least five out of seven of the committee members co-signed Finnie’s bill, including his daughter.

The other co-signatories who sit on the committee are Maguire’s SNP colleagues Fulton MacGregor and Gail Ross, and Labour’s Mary Fee and Alex Cole-Hamilton of the Lib Dems. A Be Reasonable Scotland spokesman said: “This is a travesty of democracy. Three-quarters of the Scottish public oppose John Finnie’s bill to criminalise parents who smack their children, yet it has been assigned to a committee that is overwhelmingly stacked in its favour.

“Five out of seven members of Holyrood’s Equality and Human Rights Committee co-signed Finnie’s bill, including the convener of the committee who is none other than Finnie’s daughter, Ruth Maguire MSP. It’s hard to see how this committee can possibly provide a fair and balanced assessment of the bill.”

The spokesman said Finnie had admitted to smacking his own children, who had turned out to be “well-rounded”, adding: “This destroys the myth that ordinary smacking is so harmful that parents must be criminalised for it.”

An Equalities Committee spokesman said scrutiny of the bill would begin shortly and the public would be asked to submit its views.

Finnie said: “There are very clear parliamentary procedures for the scrutiny of legislation. There will be full transparency and it all takes place in the full glare of TV cameras and microphones. I have no doubt that the highest standards of scrutiny will be observed when it comes to this legislation.”