A nationwide “public education” campaign has been called for by legal chiefs to guard against parents being criminalised under new laws passed by MSPs making Scotland the first part of UK to ban smacking of children.
The Law Society of Scotland warned it will take more than new legislation to bring about “behavioural change” among parents will after MSPs overwhelmingly voted in favour of the ban at Holyrood.
The Scottish Government last night pledged to lead a public awareness campaign along with police and social work chiefs.
Green MSP John Finnie, who brought forward the law change in a members’ Bill, hailed last night’s vote as “historic and courageous.”
But opponents insist that move will criminalise parents and marks greater state intrusion into family life.
The Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Act removes the defence of “reasonable chastisement” in Scots law, which allows parents to use physical punishment on children.
Morag Driscoll, the Law Society of Scotland’s Family Law Committee convener, said the legislation brings Scotland in line with commitments under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
But she said: “Driving meaningful behavioural change requires much more than changing the law.
“The Scottish Government now needs to launch a comprehensive public education and awareness campaign to alert people to these changes.”
The move brings Scotland into line with many other countries around Europe where a ban has been in place for years and was welcomed by children’s campaigners.
“This is a defining moment for Scotland,” said Mary Glasgow of Children’s First.
“Again and again, people have told us about the lifelong impact of being hit as a child, as they’ve joined the campaign to change the law. Today’s vote protects every future generation of Scotland’s children from any and all levels of physical violence.”
polling evidence had indicated that a majority of Scots were opposed to a smacking ban being implemented.
The Tories were the only party at Holyrood to oppose the change last night, insisting it was badly drawn legislation which could leave parents facing jail.
Tory children’s spokeswoman Liz Smith said: “There is an increased likelihood that we will have a criminalisation of parents. It may not be many, but there is that risk and that is why this Bill has got so many flaws.”
Supporters of the ban staged demonstration outside yesterday as MSPs debated the change inside.
Children’s minister Maree Todd said: “In removing an outdated provision that has no place in a modern Scotland, we are reaffirming we want this country to be the best place in the world for children to grow up so that they feel loved, safe, respected and can realise their full potential.
“We will now work in partnership with organisations including children’s charities, Social Work Scotland and Police Scotland to raise awareness of the Bill and build on the existing support we offer to children and families.”
Richard Frazer, Convener of the Church of Scotland’s Church and Society Council, also backed the change, insisting it marks a “cultural shift in attitudes.”
He added: “How we treat, love, nurture and discipline our children is at the heart of family life.
“It undoubtedly has profound and far-reaching implications for how our children will live, behave and relate to others in society as children and as adults.
“Now is the time to move on from the idea that violence against children can be justified.”