Scotland outlaws smacking children from today in UK first


Scotland outlaws smacking children from today in UK first – despite concern over the state’s growing interference in family life

  • Scotland has become the first part of the UK to outlaw the smacking of children 
  • The legislation removes defence of justifiable assault from Scots law 
  • Campaigners say it undermines parents’ freedom to bring up their children
  • Others say that it is ‘pointless lawmaking that may be called “virtue signalling”‘ 

Parents are to be banned from smacking their children from today – despite concern over the state’s growing interference in family life.

The legislation removes the defence of justifiable assault from Scots law, making Scotland the 58th country to outlaw corporal punishment.

But campaigners say it undermines parents’ ability to decide how to bring up their children – and will result in needless criminalisation.

Alistair Bonnington, former Honorary Professor of Law at Glasgow University, said: ‘This kind of pointless law-making may be what is called “virtue signalling,” in the rather odd language invented to try to justify the numerous useless things governments now do. But I’m afraid that doesn’t make it any less pointless.’

Scotland has become the first part of the UK to ban the smacking of children after new legislation came into effect (picture posed by models) 

MSPs voted by 84 to 29 to pass the Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Bill at Holyrood last year.

Green MSP John Finnie, who brought forward the legislation, argued that protecting children from violence is the best way to teach that it is unacceptable.

But Mr Bonnington raised concern that the law would be difficult to enforce.

He said: ‘Firstly, if the child is too young to speak articulately about what has occurred, then plainly there is never going to be any information passed to the police or other authorities. This law will make no difference.

‘Secondly, even if the child is old enough to report the matter, are they likely to do that? If they want to continue staying within the home they occupy now, then the answer is no.

‘In practice, even if there has been an infringement of the law, it is highly unlikely that it will be reported to the authorities. Again, in short, this Act will make no difference.’

He added: ‘As so often, the Scottish parliament may be well-enough intentioned but is hopelessly naive in passing an Act such as this. 

The new law, which was voted in by Nicola Sturgeon's government in 2019, parents will face criminal prosecution for using corporal punishment

The new law, which was voted in by Nicola Sturgeon’s government in 2019, parents will face criminal prosecution for using corporal punishment

‘MSPs would appear to have very little experience of the realities of family life.’

Minister for Children Maree Todd said that the ‘justifiable assault’ defence was ‘outdated’ and had ‘no place in a modern Scotland’.

She added: ‘The removal of this defence reaffirms that we want this country to be the best place in the world for children to grow up.’

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