Last-ditch bid to halt Scotland smacking ban as MSPs prepare to pass law

Demos are expected to be staged outside Holyrood on Thursday, both in opposition and support of the controversial ruling.
Demos are expected to be staged outside Holyrood on Thursday, both in opposition and support of the controversial ruling.
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A legal ban on smacking children in Scotland is set to be formally passed by the Scottish Parliament today.

Opponents and supporters of the controversial new law are expected to stage demos outside Holyrood ahead of the final vote on the issue.

The Green politician behind the bill, John Finnie, has called on MSPs to show “courageous leadership” by becoming the first part of the UK to introduce such a ban.

READ MORE: Smacking ban: Why MSPs are making a mistake if they approve it – Jamie Gillies

READ MORE: Smacking ban ‘sends clear message physical punishment isn’t acceptable’

But the Be Reasonable campaign, which has opposed the move, issued a last-ditch appeal for the measure to be blocked, amid concerns that many “loving parents” will be turned into criminals.

The Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Bill would remove the defence of “reasonable chastisement” in Scots law, which allows parents to use physical punishment on children. Mr Finnie said: “The Scottish Parliament has the opportunity to show courageous leadership by putting in place vital legal protections for Scotland’s children.

“It is staggering that our smallest and most vulnerable citizens are the only people who do not currently have this protection, and now is the time to rectify that. Physical punishment has no place in 21st century Scotland.

“The international evidence tells us that it can have serious adverse impacts on children, and that it is not effective. It is time for parliament to put an end to it tonight.”

But a raft of experts, family groups and campaigners have issued a statement calling on the legal status quo to be preserved. Among the signatories are Prof Tommy MacKay, a consultant child psychologist and former president of the British Psychological Society, Joy Knight, former national chair, Children’s Panel Advisory Committee, as well as Dr Simon Knight, a senior community work practitioner, and Prof Ellie Lee, director, Centre for Parenting Culture Studies.

It states: “The discourse around smacking is dishonest. It conflates ‘hitting’ and violence with smacking… A careful examination of the evidence does not find that light, infrequent physical discipline is harmful to children.

“Removing the defence will leave loving parents open to police cautions and even criminal convictions for behaviour which is, by definition, ‘reasonable’. The stress this would bring to parents and children far outweighs any perceived benefits.”

It adds: “The vast majority of Scots do not want to see smacking criminalised, regardless of their views on smacking as a parenting technique.”