Scotland to become first country in the UK to ban smacking

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The Scottish Government has committed to banning smacking in law.


The Scottish Government has committed to banning smacking in law

It follows the introduction of a member’s bill by Green MSP John Finnie in May to give ‘children equal protection from assault’ by banning physical punishment by parents and others caring for, or in charge of, children.

The bill has also received the backing of Scottish Labour.

If the move, which is expected to be put to a vote next year, is given the go ahead, it will make Scotland the first country in the UK to outlaw smacking.

In England, Ireland and Wales children are allowed to be given ‘reasonable punishment’, providing no injuries or bruising is caused.

As of 2010, all carers and tutors in England who work with children outside of the family are banned from smacking. The restriction does not include nannies, au-pairs or babysitters.

The UK is one of just five EU countries that still allows smacking, despite the United Nations in 2015 urging a smacking ban for parents be introduced.

A Scottish Government spokesperson 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.'

Justice spokesperson for the Scottish Greens, John Finnie MSP 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.'

A spokesperson for the Global Initiative to End All Coroporal Punishment of Children,  said, 'The Global Initiative warmly welcomes the Scottish Government’s commitment to ensure that proposals to ban all corporal punishment will become law. Removing the legal defence of ‘justifiable assault’ would make Scotland the first nation in the UK to fulfil children’s right to equal protection.

'The UK has received repeated recommendations from numerous UN treaty monitoring bodies, including the Committee on the Rights of the Child, the Committee Against Torture and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, to fulfil their international human rights obligation to prohibit all corporal punishment of children, and has been found in violation of the European Social Charter for the persisting legality of corporal punishment.

'The message from research is very clear – corporal punishment is linked to a range of negative health and behavioural outcomes for children, many of which persist into adulthood, with no evidence of any positive outcomes. But we do not look for research into the effects of hitting or violence against any other group (for example women, the elderly or persons with disabilities) to know that it must be banned – this is primarily a matter of children’s fundamental right to equal protection under the law on assault.

'We hope these reforms in Scotland will be achieved without delay, and will inspire other nations and particularly the UK Parliament to pursue this most basic and fundamental right for children.'

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