Scotland set to become first UK country to ban smacking

By Joe Lepper

| 06 September 2018

Legislation has been put forward in Scotland to ban parents from smacking their children.

Currently in Scottish law parents are allowed to use physical punishment on their children under the defence of "justifiable assault". Picture: Shutterstock/posed by model

The Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Bill has been introduced by Green MSP John Finnie and has the backing of the Scottish Government and MSPs from all political parties.

Currently in Scottish law parents are allowed to use physical punishment on their children under the defence of "justifiable assault". But Finnie's bill would remove that defence.

The bill also has the backing of among others Barnardo's Scotland, the NSPCC and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH). Proposed legislation to ban smacking also received the support of three quarters of the 650 organistions and people who responded to a consultation on the issue.

A poll conducted last year found that most Scottish adults think parents should be allowed to hit their children. Eight out of 10 Scots who participated in the survey said they had been smacked and most believe their parents were right to hit them. When asked if parents should be allowed to smack their children, 17 per cent of participants said "yes", while another 47 per cent said yes "in some circumstances".

RCPCH's officer for Scotland Steve Turner said it is not acceptable to smack a child.

"Physical punishment can teach a child that physical violence is part of a normal healthy lifestyle," he said.  

"It can increase the likelihood of that child going on to be aggressive in later life themselves, leading to a vicious cycle of physical violence, bred through generations.

"Physical punishment is also linked to an increase in a child's later risk for anxiety, depression and problems with self-esteem."

The Welsh government is also considering a ban on parents smacking their children and Turner hopes the introduction of legislation in Scotland will encourage the English and Northern Irish governments to also bring in a ban.

"With this bill, we have the opportunity to be leaders in child protection, and to show our children the respect they deserve," added Turner.  

"I now call on our neighbours in England and Northern Ireland to catch up, follow Scotland's lead, the Welsh Government has committed to do likewise, and provide all children, regardless of where they live in the UK, with the same level of protection."

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