Smacking to be banned in Scotland after SNP backs legislation

Scotland will be first part of the UK to ban smacking - Ian Jones
Scotland will be first part of the UK to ban smacking - Ian Jones

Scotland is to become the first part of the UK to introduce a ban on smacking children.

Ministers previously said they did not support parents using physical chastisement, but had "no plans" to bring forward legislation of their own.

However, the Scottish Government has now confirmed it will ensure that a bill lodged by the Green MSP John Finnie will 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. It will give children the same protection in law as adults.

A spokesman for the Scottish Government 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" the Bill.

nicola - Credit: EPA
Nicola Sturgeon announced earlier her government would not stand in the way of a ban Credit: EPA

She said at the time 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 that 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.

smacking - Credit: Andrew Crowley
Smacking is banned in 52 countries Credit: Andrew Crowley

"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."

There are no bans on smacking in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, where parents are allowed to use "reasonable chastisement”.

They can face criminal charges if a child is so hard that it leaves a mark or causes bruising.