Smacking ban legislation lodged at Holyrood

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Legislation aimed at banning the smacking of children in Scotland has been published at Holyrood.

Green MSP John Finnie introduced the Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Bill after gaining the backing of the Scottish Government and MSPs from across all the political parties.

If passed, the legislation would remove the defence of “justifiable assault” in Scots law, which allows parents to use physical punishment to admonish a child.

Mr Finnie’s Member’s Bill is also supported by a range of organisations including the Scottish Police Federation, Barnardo’s Scotland, the Church and Society Council of the Church of Scotland and the NSPCC.

A public consultation last year received more than 650 responses with almost 75% of those in favour of the legislation.

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’.”

Matt Forde of NSPCC Scotland said: “John Finnie’s Bill, and the Scottish Government’s support for it, is a huge step forward for our children.

“It is wrong that a legal defence which does not exist in a case of common assault against an adult can be used to justify striking a child.

“Closing this loophole brings Scotland in line with dozens of other countries in Europe and across the world and gives our children equal protection from assault.”

But the move is opposed by campaign group Be Reasonable Scotland – backed by The Christian Institute and The Family Education Trust – which argues a ban will “criminalise parents”.

A spokesman for the group said: “More than 140 countries around the world continue to respect parents’ freedom – and responsibility – to discipline their children appropriately.

“This Bill could see them in the dock for simply tapping their kids on the back of the hand or pulling them away from the side of the road.

“Police and social workers are already overstretched.

“Criminalising loving parents for giving a light, infrequent smack for the purpose of teaching right from wrong will inevitably divert valuable resources away from children who genuinely need help.”

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