Smacking ban: Scottish Government tones down advice suggesting public dial 999 and report crime

Scottish Government ministers have quietly tweaked advice on an official web page urging members of the public to “call 999 and report a crime in progress” if they see a parent smacking a child.

The Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Act 2019, which bans physical punishment and discipline, comes into force on November 7, and is seen as a landmark moment in this country’s history.

A webpage on the site, published last week, said members of the public who witness a parent smacking their child should dial 999 and report a crime.

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Now, following criticism from campaigners, an amended version of the guide which says people should only call 999 if they think a “child or young person is in immediate danger” has been published.

The amendment came just hours after campaigners against the smacking ban revealed the controversial advice in official guidance.

A spokesman for the Be Reasonable Scotland campaign, which highlighted the original advice, said: “Red-faced government officials have quietly tweaked advice on the site after a wide media backlash. Perhaps they realised that people in Scotland are not on-board with the idea that ordinary, loving parents should be reported to the police via a 999 call for tapping a child on the bum.

"Unfortunately, it’s too little too late. A raft of guidance has already been sent to professionals across Scotland with exactly the same phrasing.

“The government’s mask has slipped here. For two years they’ve been at pains to stress that the smacking ban ‘isn’t about criminalisation’.

Is smacking of children 'reasonable chastisement' or criminal assault? (Picture: John Devlin)Is smacking of children 'reasonable chastisement' or criminal assault? (Picture: John Devlin)
Is smacking of children 'reasonable chastisement' or criminal assault? (Picture: John Devlin)

"Yet, the guidance said very clearly that criminalising parents is precisely the outcome we should expect.”

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