'Overwhelming Support' For Bill To Ban Smacking Of Children

24 August 2017, 12:19 | Updated: 24 August 2017, 12:20


There is "overwhelming support" for a new law that would ban the smacking of children, the MSP proposing the move has said.

A consultation on John Finnie's member's bill to remove the defence of ''justifiable assault'', which allows parents to use physical punishment to admonish a child, has attracted more than 650 responses from individuals and organisations.

The Green MSP said almost 75% of those who responded are supportive of the change.

Organisations backing the bill range from the Scottish Police Federation and Rape Crisis Scotland to the NSPCC and the Children and Young People's Commissioner.

In its submission, the Scottish Police Federation said: "The bill will provide greater protection to our children and convey to society that the physical punishment of children is not acceptable.

"In the longer-term, evidence suggests that it may reduce violence and bullying on and by our children."

Rape Crisis Scotland said: "Without legal reform, some children will have less protection from violence and assault than others, depending on whether their parents use physical punishment.

"Given the irrefutable evidence that physical punishment is harmful, it is not acceptable to wait for every parent's approach to catch up with the evidence before introducing legal reform."

Opponents have argued the change in the law would erode the rights of parents.

In its submission, the Christian Institute said parents who use smacking as a form of discipline would be "rendered law-breakers overnight".

"The overwhelming majority of people know there is a vast difference between child abuse and smacking, and the current law rightly recognises and respects this difference," the organisation said.

Commenting on the consultation responses, Mr Finnie said: "I am grateful to all organisations and individuals that contributed to the consultation.

"It is clear from the responses that there is overwhelming support for the proposal.

"There is widespread recognition that children should receive the same legal protection from assault that adults enjoy, a position that children's rights organisations and charities have been arguing for some time.

"It is also clear from all the available research that the status quo can be damaging to children and must not be allowed to continue.

"I will now work with the Scottish Parliament's non-governmental bills unit over the coming weeks to thoroughly analyse each response."

Mr Finnie said he will reflect on the findings before deciding whether to seek the cross-party support of 18 MSPs to enable him to bring the bill before the Scottish Parliament for scrutiny.