Smacking to be outlawed in Scotland as ban is backed

Scots parents will face jail for smacking their children under new laws being unveiled at Holyrood today. Picture: John Devlin
Scots parents will face jail for smacking their children under new laws being unveiled at Holyrood today. Picture: John Devlin
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Scots parents will face jail for smacking their children under new laws being unveiled at Holyrood today.

Green MSP John Finnie is behind the bill, which will remove the defence of “reasonable chastisement” from Scots law which currently allows parents to use physical punishment to discipline youngsters.

The Scottish Government has already confirmed it will back the bill and it was confirmed yesterday that SNP MSPs will not have a “free vote” on the issue and will be told by party whips to back the bill. Labour also said yesterday its MSPs will support the measures, meaning the legislation is certain to pass at Holyrood in the next year.

READ MORE: Poll: Should smacking children be banned in Scotland?

But campaigners have vowed to fight the plans insisting it will “criminalise” thousands of Scottish parents. It is already banned in Ireland and much of Europe.

No part of the UK has yet banned smacking, although proposals are currently going through the Welsh Assembly.

READ MORE: Campaigners vow to fight ‘interfering’ smacking ban bill

Mr Finnie said: “I am delighted to be formally lodging my bill to give children equal protection from assault in the Scottish Parliament today.

“Children deserve the same legal protection from assault that adults enjoy, a position that children’s rights organisations and charities have long been arguing. Substantial academic research from around the world shows that physical punishment does not work and is shown to be counter-productive. My bill aims to support parents to make positive choices.

“The bill will not change the way that police and social work deal with assault against children. Rather it establishes the principle that assault can never be ‘justifiable’.”

A consultation has already been undertaken into the Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Bill earlier this year and received more than 650 responses with almost 75 per cent of those in favour of the legislation.

The ban has the backing of the Scottish Police Federation, Barnardo’s Scotland, the Church and Society Council of the Church of Scotland and the NSPCC.

Scotland’s Children’s Commissioner Bruce Adamson also backed the legislation yesterday.

“We should never consider the assault of a child for the purposes of punishment to be justifiable,” he said.

“Scotland is one of the last countries in Europe to amend its law to protect children, and I welcome the fact that we now have broad political support for the change.”

Children’s minister Maree Todd added: “Our vision for Scotland to be the best place in the world for children to grow up.

“This bill sends a clear signal that all physical punishment of children is wrong.”