Back to top
News In Focus

MSP aims to bring in bill to outlaw smacking of children

23 May 2017

A Green MSP has begun the official consultation process that he hopes will enable him to introduce a Holyrood bill to ban all physical punishment of children.

John Finnie, Member for the Highlands & Islands, believes the current law, which allows the physical punishment of children in some circumstances, is "out of step with families, out of step with our ambitions and out of step with our obligations under international law".

For one thing, he maintains in his consultation paper, there is now a large body of evidence that, rather than being an effective method of discipline, physical punishment exacerbates problem behaviour in children and undermines the child/parent relationship.

He cites the Equally Protected report by the Children & Young People's Commissioner for Scotland, which found that the use of physical punishment in Scotland appears to be decreasing, and that public opinion on the issue, which has historically shown a majority against a ban on physical punishment, is also shifting.

Regarding international law, he points to the United Nations, which takes a clear view that allowing any level of violent punishment of children is not compatible with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and is leading a global move to ban such punishment in an effort to change attitudes and cultural norms across the world. There are now 52 countries where physical punishment is unlawful, one of the most recent being Ireland in 2015.

Currently Scots law prohibits certain forms of physical punishment of children, including blows to the head, shaking, and hitting with an implement, but leaves it open to parents and others caring for or in charge of children to plead a defence of justifiable assault at common law. Mr Finnie wants to offer children the same protection from assault as adults.

Ministerial statements by the Scottish Government have recognised that physical punishment has the potential to harm children and young people and that it is ineffective as a means of modifying a child’s behaviour, but to date no Government proposals to legislate on the issue have been forthcoming.

Click here to view the consultation. The deadline for responses is 4 August 2017

Have your say