A bill put forward by Green MSP, John Finnie, was published at Holyrood on the 7 September 2018 to ban the smacking of children in Scotland. The legislation looks likely to be passed and would make Scotland the first part of the UK to outlaw the physical punishment of children. In other jurisdictions in the UK, parents can still administer “reasonable chastisement” against their children.
Mr Finnie said children should be given “the same legal protection from assault that adults enjoy”. Under current Scots law a parent can claim a defence of “justifiable assault” when hitting their children although there is a bar on the use of any “implement”, shaking or striking a child on the head.
Mr Finnie said “Substantial academic research from around the world shows that physical punishment does not work and is shown to be counterproductive. 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’”.
In a consultation over the summer Mr Finnie won the backing of a number of groups including the Scottish Police Federation, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Barnardo’s.
Mary Glasgow, of the Children 1st charity, said the bill would “amend the archaic law that gives children, the smallest, most vulnerable members of our society, less protection from physical harm than anybody else.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said “This bill sends a clear signal that all physical punishment of children is wrong. Evidence shows that this can lead to aggressive and problematic behaviour into adolescence and adulthood.”
However the Scottish Conservatives said present legislation “works well because it is based on common sense, and reflects what the majority of parents want.” It is a free vote though and each Conservative MSP can vote as they wish on this issue.