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Consultation launched on plans to criminalise smacking in Scotland

January 2019

A proposal in Scotland to criminalise parents who smack their own children is being put out to public consultation.

The consultation, which ends on 25 January, asks people for their views on the ban which has been proposed by Green Party MSP, John Finnie.

The government says it will support Mr Finnie’s bill — The Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Bill — meaning it stands a prospect of becoming law.

The Scottish parliament’s equalities and human rights committee wants to know what the public thinks about the plans.

Under the proposals, the defence of ‘reasonable chastisement’ would be removed from the law and parents could be convicted of criminal offence for smacking a child.

Campaign group, ‘Be Reasonable’, is opposed to an outright ban on smacking. It is backed by several groups including The Christian Institute.

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.’

He added, ‘Children rightly enjoy strong protections from assault. It is highly irresponsible and deeply misleading to suggest otherwise.’

A poll conducted for the group found that 74 per cent of people in Scotland were not in favour of making smacking a criminal offence.

And 78 per cent said they were concerned that a smacking ban might flood police and social workers with trivial cases which mean they struggle to stop serious abusers.

The convener of the Scottish parliament’s equalities and human rights committee, Ruth Maguire — who also happens to be John Finnie’s daughter — said, ‘This bill has aroused strong views.

‘There are passionately held beliefs on both sides of this argument, from those who think that physical punishment violates a child’s human rights, to those who feel parents should have a right to smack their children.

‘As the proposed law starts making its way through the parliamentary process, we are keen to hear from people in Scotland who have a view on this subject.

‘This will help us as we carry out our role as parliamentarians and inform our consideration of the proposals.’