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Scotland to ban parents from smacking their children with landmark legislation

Bill proposed by Green MSP John Finnie will remove 'justifiable assault' defence, which allows parents to use physical punishment

Catriona Webster
Thursday 19 October 2017 17:16 BST
About 50 countries have already introduced similar bans, but this makes Scotland the first in the UK
About 50 countries have already introduced similar bans, but this makes Scotland the first in the UK (PA)

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

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 Scottish law, which allows parents to use physical punishment to admonish a child.

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.”


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