At last, however, there is the prospect of significant change in Scotland, with the introduction of a member’s bill to ‘give children equal protection from assault’ by banning physical punishment by parents and others caring for children.
This should be put to the vote next year and, if passed, will make Scotland the first country in the UK to outlaw smacking.
Meanwhile, in England, Northern Ireland and Wales, children can be given ‘reasonable punishment’ providing no injuries or bruising are caused – a definition of allowable that should make everyone feel very uncomfortable.
Any attempt to ban hitting of children in most of the UK seems to provoke emotional, irrational responses in both government and public, whatever the United Nations or global and national coalitions of organisations opposed to physical punishment say.
Back in 2000, Nursery World reported on how the Labour Government inserted a clause into the new Care Standards to allow childminders to smack and smoke in front of the children in their care, with parental permission. All protest went unheeded, with Margaret Hodge, children’s minister, saying that no childminder would be forced to smack or smoke! In 2010, this was reversed, but smacking was still allowable for nannies, au pairs and babysitters.
Many countries in the European Union and elsewhere have banned smacking. With Scotland taking a welcome lead, it is really time for the rest of the UK to follow suit if we have any claim to be a civilised society.