Smacking ban a ‘positive and necessary step’, says MSP

Introducing legislation to ban smacking children in Scotland is a “positive and necessary step”, according to the MSP behind the proposal.

A member’s Bill has been put forward at Holyrood by Scottish Green MSP John Finnie which would remove the defence of “justifiable assault” in Scots law, which allows parents to use physical punishment on children.

The move has been backed by a majority of MSPs on the Scottish Parliament’s Equalities and Human Rights Committee, however some campaigners have suggested it could lead to criminalisation of parents.

Mr Finnie stated that the change would bring Scotland into line with best practice from around the world.

He said: “MSPs from all five parties supported my original proposal and the recent report published by the Equalities and Human Rights Committee highlighted that affording children equal protection will bring substantial benefits to individuals and society.

“Fifty-four countries already prohibit the physical punishment of children, with all the evidence showing that this is a positive and necessary step.

“If passed my Bill will bring Scotland into line with international best practice. I look forward to progressing it through the parliamentary process.”

Mr Finnie will lead a debate on his proposal at Holyrood on Tuesday, with MSPs asked to vote on whether they agree with the general principles of Mr Finnie’s Bill.

Campaigners who are in support of the Bill are also expected to gather outside the parliament on Tuesday morning.

Mary Glasgow, from the children’s charity Children 1st, said: “Civic Scotland has sent a resounding message to MSPs – we can no longer tolerate the physical punishment of any child.

“Many countries, most recently Ireland, have already changed their law – it’s time Scotland caught up.”

Matt Forde, NSPCC Scotland, said: “It’s wrong that children in Scotland have less protection from assault and that a legal defence which does not exist when an adult is hit can be used to justify striking a child.

“We strongly believe a change in the law is a common-sense move. Closing this loophole brings Scotland in line with dozens of countries across the world and is simply about fairness and equality for our children.”

In an open letter published last week, a group of academics, parenting experts and campaigners urged MSPs to oppose the Bill.

They suggested that the Bill would do nothing to help vulnerable children and could risk criminalising parents.

“We are deeply concerned by legislation before the Scottish Parliament to remove the defence of reasonable chastisement and introduce a ‘smacking ban’,” they wrote.

“It is unnecessary, will do nothing to help vulnerable children and will instead cause traumatic intervention in good families.

“The discourse around smacking is dishonest. It conflates ‘hitting’ and violence with smacking.

“But violence against children is already outlawed under current legislation.”

It added: “Removing the defence will leave loving parents open to police cautions and even criminal convictions for behaviour which is, by definition, ‘reasonable’.

“The stress this would bring to parents and children far outweighs any perceived benefits.

“A smacking ban would also make the work of the police and social services more difficult by bringing hundreds of good parents under the remit of child protection agencies, impeding efforts to identify actual abuse.

“The vast majority of Scots do not want to see smacking criminalised, regardless of their views on smacking as a parenting technique.

“We urge MSPs to oppose this legislation when it is debated.”

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