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Smacking ban unwarranted and unworkable, say campaigners

Campaigners say there is no support for a smacking ban Photo: Rebecca Naden/PA

There is “enormous” public opposition to a proposed ban on smacking, a campaign group has claimed.

Analysis by Be Reasonable Scotland suggests a majority of the responses to a consultation on the Children (Equal Protection From Assault) (Scotland) Bill indicated opposition to the plans.

If passed, the legislation brought forward by Green MSP John Finnie would remove the defence of “justifiable assault” in Scots law, which allows parents to use physical punishment on children.

Simon Calvert, of Be Reasonable Scotland, said: “We have carried out forensic research into the 437 submissions made on the bill and the results demonstrate what we have been saying since the outset – a smacking ban is unwanted, unwarranted and unworkable.

“The public doesn’t like it and parents object to this latest intrusion into family life by those who want to impose their own parenting preferences on every home in Scotland.

“More than 370 individuals who responded to the consultation opposed Mr Finnie’s bill. By contrast, only 11 individuals spoke in favour of it.

“The evidence clearly shows that the vast majority of Scots do not back this ban and they need to communicate this to their MSPs before it’s too late.

“There are 614,000 families with dependent children in Scotland and many of these parents face the threat of being criminalised if this bill goes through and they are found to have given their child a light smack. That’s chilling.”

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Holyrood’s Equalities and Human Rights Committee heard from individuals working at child protection organisations on Thursday.

They indicated that introducing legislation could help change the culture around violence in Scotland.

Mr Finnie said: “It is rightly a matter for parliament which committee scrutinises legislation and a matter for the committee what witnesses it invites.

“Given the indisputable evidence that physical punishment can be harmful to children I’m not surprised that all the credible witnesses support my proposal.

“My bill will bring Scotland into line with international best practice, and help us take another step toward making Scotland the best country for children to grow up in.”

A government spokeswoman said: “The Scottish Government supports positive parenting.

“This member’s bill by John Finnie will give children the same legal protections as adults – something backed by an overwhelming majority of public opinion – and end the defence of ‘justifiable assault’.

“We have set up an implementation group – including bodies such as Police Scotland – which will consider what actions will need to be taken if the Bill becomes law.

“The group is looking at issues such as communication and guidance. We will continue to offer funding for a range of family support services and resources to help parents and carers.”