Smacking ban passes first hurdle despite MSPs concerns

A smacking ban has been proposed.
A smacking ban has been proposed.
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MSPs have backed plans to ban the smacking of children in Scotland despite claims it could undermine family life.

Children’s campaigners welcomed the vote in Holyrood, to approve Green MSP John Finnie’s Bill by 80 votes to 29, although SNP MSPs Christine Grahame and Richard Lyle abstained.

Mr Lyle warned it would make a “tap on the hand” an offence and could be “mis-used” by parents in custody rows.

“It might see dishonest parents accusing their spouses of smacking in order to prevent access to children,” he said.

The legislation has been brought forward by Mr Finnie and would remove the existing defence of justifiable assault from Scots Law. Opponents of the Bill have raised fears that it could criminalise thousands of parents for disciplining their children.

But Mr Finnie insisted it was “time for action” as he said: “We often in Scotland talk about zero tolerance for domestic abuse and violence, but we allow the use of physical punishment for children.

“This sends a message to our children that hitting someone is a way of resolving a dispute, or if you don’t like their behaviour.”

Tory MSP Oliver Mundell spoke out against the proposals, saying that “however well-meaning” the Bill was “an assault on family life”.

The Conservative said: “The fundamental problem is that this Bill does more harm than good and it doesn’t live up to its name.

“Let me be clear, violence against children is wrong. On that point I’d hope we could all agree.

“However, that’s where I depart company from other members who speak enthusiastically in support of this proposal.

“Because when it comes to the proportionality of subjecting good parents to criminalisation, and the suggestion that it is justified and reasonable for the state to intervene in family life where child welfare is not at risk, I cannot agree.”

However Children’s minister Maree Todd insisted the intention is not to “criminalise parents.”

“Our intention is to provide early support using a getting it right for every child approach, which we have been using for many years, continuing to use that to recognise the situations where parents need support and to put in support,” the minister 

MSPs backed the Bill at Stage 1 last night, but it will have to come back before the Parliament for a final vote later this year before the ban is passed into law.