A proposed ban on smacking sends a “very clear message” to parents that physical punishment for children is “not acceptable”, a Scottish Government minister has said.
Children’s minister Maree Todd insisted the plan would not result in the “increased criminalisation” of parents as she appeared before MSPs at Holyrood’s equalities committee.
The Children (Equal Protection from Assault) Bill has been introduced by Green MSP John Finnie and would remove the defence of “reasonable chastisement” in Scots law, which allows parents to use physical punishment on children.
The campaign group Be Reasonable, which has branded the proposal an “intrusion into family life”, staged a demonstration outside Holyrood yesterday.
Ms Todd explained the Scottish Government was backing the bill, saying: “We believe that children should have the same legal protection from assault as adults and the bill will achieve this.”
She said removing the “reasonable chastisement” defence reflects growing evidence that indicates physical punishment of children is “ineffective and harmful”.
She added: “It will send a clear message it’s not necessary for parents and carers to use physical punishment to discipline their children.
“Our aim is for Scotland to be the best place in the world for our children to grow up and this bill will contribute to that aim.
“The important thing for us to do is to bring clarity to the situation, to say absolutely physical punishment is not acceptable in Scotland.
“The body of evidence around the physical punishment of children is that it is harmful to their emotional and mental health, it is not an effective discipline strategy.”
Mr Finnie later told the committee his bill was not intended to bring about a rise in the number of parents being prosecuted, saying this had not occurred in countries where similar legislation has already been brought in.
He said: “The intention of the bill is to send a ‘direction of travel’ about child welfare and child upbringing, it’s not to criminalise parents.
“At the moment, parents could be criminalised for using excessive force on a child.
“This is to send guidance and put support in place to say that there are better ways, because all the evidence tells us there’s better ways.
“So it’s not about criminalising anyone, it’s about supporting children.”
However, Be Reasonable spokesman Simon Calvert claimed that Scots were against the plan.
He said: “The public and parents are massively against this latest intrusion into family life by those who want to impose their own parenting preferences on every home in Scotland.”
He added: “The evidence clearly shows that the vast majority of Scots do not back this ban. They need to communicate this to their MSPs before it’s too late.”