Holyrood committee backs proposed smacking ban in Scotland

A Holyrood committee has backed a proposed smacking ban in Scotland, concluding that the right to family life does not include the right to hit children.

A proposed smacking ban has taken a step forward
A proposed smacking ban has taken a step forward

Five of the seven MSPs on the of the Equalities and Human Rights Committee today backed the general principles of the Children (Equal Protection from Assault) Bill in its Stage 1 report.

Tory MSPs Oliver Mundell and Annie Wells dissented.

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The bill, introduced by Greens MSP John Finnie, would remove the defence of “reasonable chastisement” from Scots law as part of its aim to end the physical punishment of children.

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The committee’s reported concluded that changing the law would bring Scotland into line with its international Human Rights obligations, improve children’s protection, and be a catalyst for a positive change in culture.

The report also acknowledged the concerns it heard about the bill, particularly around criminalising parents and parental rights to raise their children according to their own wishes.

But it found that changing the law would not lead to a notable increase in the number of families brought into the criminal justice system.

It added that the right to family life did not include a right to hit children.

Under current laws the defence of reasonable chastisement may be used in assault cases where a parent or carer has hit, smacked or otherwise physically punished a child.

Committee convener Ruth Maguire MSP, said: “Removing a legal defence that justifies a parent hitting their child is a watershed moment in Scots law and in changing Scotland’s culture.

“It’s over three decades since all physical punishment was ended in classrooms, and it’s now time to end it at home as well. This law will ensure our children are legally protected from assault in the same way as adults.

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“This bill has a very clear message about what is acceptable to parents, public services, and children.

“The majority of our Committee Members believe this move will change Scotland for the better.”