On 3 October 2019 Scotland became the first country in the UK to ban spanking and other physical punishment for children. This brings the country into line with United Nations recommendations. Effective from 1990, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child called upon member states to “take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence.” At the time this was ratified by the UK. According to the BBC, at least 57 other countries in the world already ban child corporal punishment with Sweden being the first to do so in 1979-some 40 years ago.
The Bill was introduced by John Finnie a Scottish Greens MSP and also a former police officer, arguing that “physical violence has no place in 21 century Scotland.” He further stated that the Bill will “give children the same legal protection from assault that adults currently enjoy.” All physical punishment is already banned in schools and other educational settings.
The Bill was passed by 84 votes to 29.
Previously adults and caregivers could use “reasonable” physical force as punishment. However school psychologists have warned that smacking can damage a child’s mental health. Indeed in a 2018 policy statement by the American Academy of Paediatricians they asserted that physical punishment for children can lead to behavioural, cognitive, psychosocial and emotional problems.
Jamie Gillies, from the opposition group Be Reasonable told reporters before the vote that “seeking to further the protection of children is highly commendable, but a smacking ban is not the way to do it.”
“The government should invest in current services, which are already hard- pressed and bolster their ability to identify and tackle abuse.”
Opponents further maintain that the Bill will unnecessarily criminalise otherwise good parents.
But Mr Finnie has insisted “I am absolutely delighted that the Scottish Parliament has taken this historic and courageous step.”
“The leadership shown by MSPs will send a strong message that violence is never acceptable in any setting, and that our children deserve at least the same legal protections that adults enjoy.”
“The international evidence tells us that it can have serious impacts on children and that it is not effective.”