Scottish smacking ban consultation opens – BBC News

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Image caption Under Scottish law, parents can claim a defence of “justifiable assault” when punishing their child

Proposals to ban parents in Scotland from smacking their children have been opened up for public consultation.

The move is ahead of a proposed member’s bill in the Scottish Parliament which aims to give children equal protection from assault.

It has been put forward by Highlands and Islands Green MSP John Finnie.

It is backed by a number of children’s charities, as well as the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents.

The consultation will run until 4 August.

Mr Finnie said: “Scotland cannot be thought of as the best place in the world for children to grow up while our law gives children less protection from assault than anybody else in society.

“There is clear evidence that the use of physical punishment is detrimental to children’s long-term health and wellbeing.

“Parents know how important it is to build strong, healthy relationships with their children. We can see from both international evidence and what families here tell us that physical punishment can prevent this.

“It makes a child’s behaviour worse and can lead to increased conflict between children and parents.”

Physical punishment

The MSP added that giving children full protection against assault would send a “clear message” and would underpin Scotland’s efforts to reduce violence across the whole of society.

In April, Scotland’s outgoing children’s commissioner, Tam Baillie, renewed his call for a ban on smacking children.

Mr Baillie said the UK was one of only five European countries which did not fully protect children from physical punishment.

He also claimed that even children in Zimbabwe were better protected than those in Scotland.

Under Scottish law, parents can claim a defence of “justifiable assault” when punishing their child.

‘Cycle of violence’

But section 51 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003 prohibits the use of an “implement” in the punishment.

It also bans parents from shaking their child or striking them on their head.

The United Nations urged the UK in 2015 to introduce laws to ban smacking in the home.

A group of academics have also called for a ban in Scotland after finding “compelling” evidence that the practice creates a cycle of violence that carries on into adulthood.

A Scottish government spokesman said: “The Scottish government does not support physical punishment of children. We have no plans to introduce legislation in the area, but we will consider carefully the member’s bill that we understand John Finnie intends to introduce.

“We continue to support positive parenting and we recognise that physical punishment can set children the wrong example and is not an effective way to teach children discipline.”

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