Scotland to become first part of UK to ban the smacking of children

The smacking of children will be banned in Scotland, the Scottish Government has confirmed.

Scotland has today banned smacking.
Scotland has today banned smacking.

Ministers have said they will ensure that a Bill brought forward by Green MSP John Finnie would become law.

The legislation will remove the defence of ''justifiable assault'' in Scots law, which allows parents to use physical punishment to admonish a child.

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The move would make Scotland the first part of the UK to introduce a ban on smacking children.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "Mr Finnie's proposals are not a Scottish Government Bill, however we will ensure the proposals become law.

"We believe physical punishment can have negative effects on children which can last long after the physical pain has died away.

"We support positive parenting through, for example, funding for family support services."

The statement follows First Minister Nicola Sturgeon's confirmation in her programme for government last month that ministers would "not oppose" Mr Finnie's Bill.

She highlighted that about 50 countries - including France, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Ireland - had already made the change.

The detailed document setting out Ms Sturgeon's legislative programme appeared to go further, stating the government would support the proposals.

Scottish Labour announced earlier this week it would also support the bill as "the right thing to do".

Mr Finnie said: "It is especially welcome that the Scottish Government has reiterated its support for my bill because there is clear evidence that the use of physical punishment is detrimental to children's long-term health and wellbeing.

"Giving children equal protection against assault will send a clear message to all of us about how we treat each other and underpin Scotland's efforts to reduce violence.

"The physical punishment of children is already illegal in 52 countries and my proposal will give children in Scotland the necessary protections to flourish in a healthy environment and encourage the building of stronger relationships between children, their parents and others who care for them."

Lib Dem MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton said: "Scottish Liberal Democrats have regularly demanded the so-called 'justifiable assault' of children be brought to an end.

"It is a source of national shame that this defence still exists and it is welcome that SNP ministers will now get with the times and abolish it."

Bruce Adamson, Scotland's children and young people's commissioner, said: "In Scotland in 2017, our law allows a parent or carer to assault a child for the purpose of physical punishment, which is untenable in international human rights law.

"This goes against the basic values that we hold in Scotland in terms of human dignity and respect for children.

"Across the political spectrum, there is recognition that this is not only an obligation in human rights law and the right thing to do, but it is something we should have done many years ago."

A spokesman for NSPCC Scotland said: "John Finnie's bill on equal protection from assault, and the Scottish Government's indication it will support it, is a welcome step on the road towards fairness and equality for children.

"The NSPCC has long campaigned for children to have the same protection against assault as adults and we strongly believe a change in the law would be a common-sense move."