Scotland to ban smacking of children

MSPs debated the issue this afternoon and voted overwhelmingly in favour of a ban on smacking

Henry Hepburn

Scotland poised to ban smacking of children

Smacking children is being  made illegal in Scotland after MSPs this evening voted to change the law and ban physical punishment.

The smacking ban – which will be the first in any UK nation – was voted on in the Scottish Parliament this afternoon, with 84 MSPs in favour and 29 against. This will give children the same protection from violence as adults, by removing the defence of justifiable assault in Scots law.

The Bill, introduced by Scottish Greens MSP John Finnie, faced its final vote this evening, with the former police officer calling for cross-party support for the "vital legal protections for Scotland's children".

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Removing a parent's right to hit their child would bring Scotland up to international standards, Mr Finnie has argued, adding: "Physical punishment has no place in 21st-century Scotland."

Mr Finnie said before the vote: "This evening the Scottish Parliament has the opportunity to show courageous leadership by putting in place vital legal protections for Scotland's children.

"It is staggering that our smallest and most vulnerable citizens are the only people who do not currently have this protection, and now is the time to rectify that.

"Physical punishment has no place in 21st-century Scotland."

Mr Finnie added: "The international evidence tells us that it can have serious adverse impacts on children, and that it is not effective."

After the vote this evening, children’s minister Maree Todd said: “I’m very pleased that Parliament has now voted to ensure that children, without exception, have the same protection from assault as adults.

“In removing an outdated provision that has no place in a modern Scotland, we are reaffirming we want this country to be the best place in the world for children to grow up so that they feel loved, safe, respected and can realise their full potential. "

When the Bill passed the first stage towards becoming law, having been approved by 80 votes to 29, Mr Finnie compared the legislation to other law changes such as the smoking ban and drink-driving rules, which aimed to inspire widespread social change.

In a snap YouGov poll, whose results were released shortly after the parliamentary vote, 57 per cent of 1,956 adults said they were opposed to smacking becoming a criminal offence, with 31 per cent in favour. In Scotland, 55 per cent were against and 41 per cent were in favour.

Opponents of the bill have raised fears that it could criminalise thousands of parents for disciplining their children.

Jamie Gillies, from the campaign group Be Reasonable, said: "Seeking to further the protection of children is highly commendable, but a smacking ban is not the way to do it.

"The risks this proposal carries to family life, social work and the police mean it could end up doing far more harm than good."

He added: "The government should invest in current services, which are already hard-pressed, and bolster their ability to identify and tackle abuse."

In a 2017 YouGov poll of 4,283 adults, 59 per cent said smacking of children should not be banned.

But Bruce Adamson, the children and young people's commissioner for Scotland, said: "This change in the law will send a really clear message to children that violence is never acceptable.

"And it will make sure that parents know that there's other ways of parenting positively.

"It brings us into line with the United Nations, the Council of Europe, and almost every other European country that's done this, but also we're leading the way in the UK so it will inspire the other parts of the UK to give this protection to children as well."

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Henry Hepburn

Henry Hepburn

Henry Hepburn is the news editor for Tes Scotland

Find me on Twitter @Henry_Hepburn

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