Back to top
News In Focus

Commissioner calls ministers in breach of children's rights over smacking

17 July 2017

Failing to outlaw the physical punishment of children is putting the Scottish Government in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights, according to the Children and Young People's Commissioner for Scotland.

Bruce Adamson, who took up his post in May this year, has mounted a strong attack on the Scottish Government's inaction on the subject, in an article in this month's Journal and in a BBC radio interview.

Mr Adamson points to repeated calls on Scotland to live up to its international commitments, from the United Nations in relation to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Council of Europe in relation to the European Convention on Human Rights, in declaring that it is long overdue for ministers to act.

"The European Court of Human Rights has progressively condemned corporal punishment in a series of judgments against the UK since the 1970s", he writes in the Journal. "Each time, the law has been amended only to meet the minimum requirement of the judgment, rather than properly respect the rights of children. It should not require a child to take a case to Strasbourg for the Scottish Government to act."

The Commissioner is urging ministers to commit to adopting the proposed member's bill in the Scottish Parliament for which Green MSP John Finnie is seeking enough support to introduce it. "The Government must not see itself as a passive actor and wait for the bill to progress; it must commit to legislative change", he declares.

Mr Adamson, a New Zealander who has lived and worked in Scotland since 2002, points to the affirmation in the UN Convention that precisely because of their physical and mental immaturity, children need special safeguards, including appropriate legal protection. "Legalised violence against children in one context risks tolerance of violence against children generally', he maintains.

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland, he added: "Almost every country in Europe is committed to this change and we still in Scotland say that it;s OK for a parent or carer to assault a child for the purpose of physical punishment... it really goes against the basic values that we hold in Scotland in terms of human dignity and respect for children."

The Scottish Government said it had no plans to introduce legislation, but would "consider carefully" Mr Finnie's bill.

Click here to view the shorter version and the longer version of Mr Adamson's article.


Have your say