‘Emotional abuse’ law unveiled in Scotland

Legislation to “criminalise emotional abuse” of children is set to be introduced in Scotland, despite concerns about a previous attempt to bring in a similar law in England and Wales.

Such a law could see parents criminalised for raising children according to their religious beliefs.

Parents and other concerned citizens will be given an opportunity to share their views in a consultation on the “scope and nature” of the law later in the year.

‘Breaking up families’

The Times in Scotland, while noting that it is a laudable aim to protect children, criticised the proposal.

It “runs the risk of breaking up families”, the newspaper warned, and would require authorities to rule on parental discipline.

The Times added that “bitter experience” has shown vulnerable children are more likely to slip through the net due to overworked social workers, than a “failure of law”.


The Scottish Government Minister for Childcare and Early Years, Mark McDonald, made the announcement on Thursday.

He said the Children and Young Persons (Scotland) Act 1937 would be modified to remove “archaic language”.

“Importantly, we will introduce new legislation to make the emotional abuse and neglect of children a criminal offence”, he explained.

McDonald said the Government would publish a “National Child Protection Policy” and “Explore how best to establish a National Child Protection Register”.

Sweeping parenting law

In 2014, the Westminster Government sought to introduce a sweeping parenting law in England and Wales for anyone who deliberately harmed a child’s “physical, intellectual, emotional, social or behavioural development”.

It carried a maximum prison sentence of ten years.

Ministers were being urged on principally by Action for Children and the NSPCC.

‘Common sense’

However, after a campaign by The Christian Institute, the Bill simply modernised the language of the existing child cruelty offence to use the term ‘psychological suffering’ – without widening its remit.

An Institute spokesman said at the time: “The fact that the Government changed its mind is a victory for common sense.

“We’re grateful to those who spoke out against these plans and put pressure on the Government to drop them.”

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