Scottish Govt backs move to criminalise parents who smack

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has backed a ban on smacking in Scotland that would criminalise parents.

Outlining her Government’s legislative programme yesterday, Sturgeon said her party would not stand in the way of a Member’s Bill by Green MSP John Finnie which seeks to implement a ban.

The Scottish Government’s official programme for 2017-2018 goes further, stating that it will: “support John Finnie MSP’s legislative proposals” and “outlaw all forms of physical punishment”.

Criminalising parents

The Bill, which would remove the legal protection allowing parents to smack their children, has faced a slew of criticism in recent months.

Critics say that legislating against smacking would criminalise loving parents and waste police time.

Lowri Turner, spokesmum for the Be Reasonable campaign, hit out against the move yesterday.

‘Constantly undermined’

She said: “It’s hard enough to do what’s best for your child every day without feeling constantly undermined by experts, politicians and civil servants.

“A gentle smack on the back of the legs from a loving mum is not the same as beating up your kids and it’s just so patronising to parents to suggest otherwise.”

This is an unwanted intrusion by the State and we hope MSPs see common sense.

Lowri Turner

Turner added: “What about if you are from England and go on holiday to Scotland. Is the Scottish Government really saying it’s happy to criminalise tourists? This is an unwanted intrusion by the State and we hope MSPs see common sense.”

The Family Education Trust also warned against a ban. Director Norman Wells said: “Making smacking a criminal offence would significantly lower the threshold for intervention in family life and lead to social workers and the police getting involved in families where the children are not at the slightest risk of harm.”

Protections

It is currently illegal to discipline by shaking, to use any implement, or direct any smack at the head.

But Finnie’s Bill could see parents handed a criminal record for lovingly disciplining their children with a light smack.

Earlier this year, Finnie acknowledged that parents would be criminalised, but claimed it would not be in “significant numbers”.

In the consultation document released alongside the Bill, he also recognised that, if smacking was banned, police and social workers would come under increased pressure.

Welsh plans

In England and Wales, the Children Act 2004 restricts the defence of “reasonable chastisement” for parental smacking of children. Under the law, any smack that leaves more than a temporary mark might be illegal.

In 2016 Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones indicated his intention to introduce a smacking ban.

The Be Reasonable Campaign, a grassroots campaign of parents and supportive groups including The Christian Institute, was started to oppose the move to criminalise parents. Visit the campaign website here.

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