Scottish Parliament backs smacking ban proposals

30 May 2019

Scotland has taken a ‘momentous step’ towards banning smacking, as the proposal is overwhelmingly approved by MSPs. 


The bill, lodged by Green MSP John Finnie this week, would remove the defence of ‘justifiable assault’ from Scottish law, designed to give children equal protection from assault as adults.  

At its first stage debate, MSPs voted by 80 to 29 in favour approving the general principles of the new legislation to achieve this, with the Scottish Conservatives voting against. 

Although parents are able to claim ‘justifiable assault’ when punishing their child, the use of an ‘implement’ in any punishment is banned. 

The new legislation would mean parents could now face prosecution for any use of physical punishment on their children. 

Opponents of the Bill raised their concerns, with Scottish Conservative Oliver Mundell calling the proposal ‘sheer madness’ as it would criminalise parents for wanting to discipline their child.

The bill will now go to a Holyrood committee, where it will be scrutinised in greater detail before MSPs are asked to give their final approval so it can become law.

Mr Finnie said 54 countries across the world already prohibit the physical punishment of children, and his bill would bring Scotland into line with international best practice.

‘My intention in bringing forward the bill is 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.”

Mary Glasgow, chief executive of the charity Children 1st, said on Tuesday: “Today, MSPs have taken a momentous step towards Scotland becoming the first UK country to end physical punishment of children.

"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."

Author: Nicole Bains

Image credit | iStock