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Scottish Parliament backs idea of smacking ban

John Finnie - Scottish parliament

Scottish Parliament backs idea of smacking ban

MSPs have voted to back the principle of giving children equal protection from assault. 

Scottish Green MSP John Finnie’s member’s bill was backed at stage one by 80 votes to 29, with the Scottish Conservatives voting against. 

The proposal would remove the legal defence of ‘justifiable assault’ from Scots law, which only applies to cases involving violence towards children. A similar proposal is being considered in Wales. 

The bill will now be scrutinised and amended at committee stage.

 

Finnie told MSPs the UK was “out of step” with much of Europe on the issue. 

“My intention in bringing forward the bill is to bring clarity to the law by removing the defence of reasonable chastisement, sometimes referred to as justifiable assault, and to send a clear message that the physical punishment of children is not acceptable,” he said. 

“The growing body of international evidence shows that the physical punishment of children is harmful to their development and is not an effective means of discipline.” 

Scottish Conservative Oliver Mundell called the proposal “sheer madness” because it would criminalise currently lawful parenting. 

“Assault can include a gesture that places a person in a state of fear, even if there is no physical contact. That seems to be a very broad category of behaviour on which to focus with regard to parents,” he said. 

Mary Glasgow, chief executive of children’s charity Children 1st, said the vote was a “momentous step”. 

“It’s clear from countries that have already taken this step that it will work well for children, parents and communities. The overwhelming majority in favour of the Bill at Holyrood shows politicians want what we all want for our children – for them to grow up feeling loved, safe and happy, in the arms of their family.” 

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