Scotland becomes first country in UK to ban smacking of children

Complete ban on smacking children in Ireland since 2015

Legislation which allowed parents to use force against their children in Ireland was repealed almost 17 years ago, and a complete ban on smacking was introduced in 2015. Photograph: PA

Legislation which allowed parents to use force against their children in Ireland was repealed almost 17 years ago, and a complete ban on smacking was introduced in 2015. Photograph: PA

 

Scotland has become the first country in the UK to ban outright the physical punishment of children, making it a criminal offence for parents to smack their offspring.

The member’s bill, which was lodged by the Scottish Green party MSP John Finnie and supported by the Scottish National party government, was passed overwhelmingly on Thursday evening, with 84 MSPs voting in favour and 29 against. It is designed to give children equal protection from violence by removing the defence of “justifiable assault” in Scots law.

In Ireland, the legislation which allowed parents to use force against their children was repealed almost 17 years ago, and a complete ban on smacking was introduced in 2015.

Parents in England and Northern Ireland are currently allowed to use “reasonable chastisement”, while the Welsh government is considering similar legislation to Scotland.

Leading the final stage debate, Mr Finnie, a former police officer, said there was an urgent need to bring Scotland into line with best practice across the world, with 57 other countries already prohibiting the physical punishment of children.

“Critics of this simple reform often say that it criminalises parents, but there is no evidence that this change to the law leads to increased prosecutions in any of the more than 50 countries where this change has taken place,” he said.

MSPs also rejected two amendments which the Scottish Conservatives claimed would clarify the bill, in particular around instances such as preventing a child running into a busy road or pulling a pan of boiling water on to themselves.

Children’s campaigners welcomed the move as evidence of a wholesale shift in attitudes to child rearing and children’s rights over the past few decades.

Mary Glasgow, chief executive of Children 1st, Scotland’s national children’s charity, condemned what she described as “scaremongering” during the debating of the bill.

“Listening to the evidence from police, social workers and others working directly with families, it has been clear that there is no intent to criminalise parents, but to bring the law in line with the international evidence and modern parenting practice,” she said. – Guardian