MSP warns: Smacking ban could also criminalise shouting

Parents could be criminalised if they shout at their children, under the proposed legislation to ban smacking an MSP has warned.

Adam Tomkins, who is also a lawyer and the Scottish Conservatives’ spokesman on constitutional relations, voted against the smacking ban last month.

Now, he has warned that due to the way it is drafted parents who shout or threaten to physically discipline their own children could also be prosecuted.

Father, daughter

Tomkins attempted to put forward amendments to clarify the legislation, but these were ruled inadmissible.

Ruth Maguire MSP made the decision in her capacity as Convener of the Equalities and Human Rights Committee.

Her father John Finnie – the Green MSP – put forward the legislation.

Tomkins described the decision as a “sinister move to block democratic consideration of the nation’s legislation”.

Dangerous and unnecessary

Writing in the Scottish Daily Mail, Tomkins said the smacking Bill is “not fit for purpose”, “unnecessary” and “dangerous”.

He also warned: “What has been missed by the Bill’s proponents, however, is that the law of assault is much broader than they think.”

“In its current form, the Bill will make me a criminal if I shout angrily at my misbehaving children and raise my hand to them – even if I have no intention at all of hurting them.

“This is bonkers.”

Public opposition

The SNP responded to the MSP’s concerns by deriding his amendments and accusing him of misogyny towards Maguire.

On 28 May, John Finnie’s Bill was passed by 80 votes to 29 at Holyrood, with two abstentions from SNP MSPs.

The Bill is now being considered in more detail by MSPs.


ComRes polling shows around three-quarters of adults in Scotland say smacking should not be a criminal offence.

To date most MSPs have ignored fears that the law will criminalise parents and put vulnerable children in greater danger.