On Thursday, the Scottish government confirmed that smacking children is to be banned in the country.
Green MSP John Finnie drew up a Member’s Bill aimed at taking away the defence of “justifiable assault”, which can be used by parents who hit their children. A vote on the issue is set to be held in the Scottish Parliament next year.
“Mr Finnie’s proposals are not a Scottish Government Bill, however we will ensure the proposals become law,” said a government spokesperson. “We believe physical punishment can have negative effects on children which can last long after the physical pain has died away.”
Now, there have been calls for a nationwide ban on smacking by the UK’s four Children’s Commissioners. They hope that Scotland’s decision will prompt similar action across the nation.
The UK is currently one of only five EU countries to allow smacking. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, parents can use “reasonable chastisement” as long as the ‘punishment’ doesn’t leave a mark, swelling, cuts or bruises.
Wales is the only other country with a potential plan to change the smacking law with Welsh Children’s Commissioner Sally Holland saying a complete ban would “accelerate a cultural change and will make more parents aware of the long-term damage of smacking.”
“Assault on children has never been right, and it is certainly not right now that protection from assault as a child may depend on where you live in the UK,” said Northern Ireland’s Commissioner Koulla Yiasouma.
The English Commissioner, Anne Longfield, agreed that the current legislation was “outdated”, adding: “It should be updated to reflect what the vast majority of parents believe: that hitting children is wrong and that there are better and more effective ways of disciplining children.”
However, it turns out that plenty of people don’t agree with the ban. A recent poll of over 1000 people in Scotland found that two thirds of adults believe it is “sometimes necessary to smack a naughty child.”
“The people calling for this change are using hysterical and manipulative language. They’re trying to make out that a gentle smack from a loving mum is the same as beating up your kids,” commented Be Reasonable campaigner Lowri Turner.“ If the government can’t tell the difference, then they shouldn’t be passing laws about it.”
A UK government spokesperson came out with a similar message, saying that violence against children would “never be condoned” but a ban could risk “criminalising parents”.
There have been mixed messages on social media too with some people for the ban and others against.
“Assault is illegal. And smacking a child is assault in my view. Glad it’s to be banned. Children are not possessions,” tweeted Member of Scottish Parliament (MSP) Gillian Martin.
“Amount of people raging that they can’t hit their kids anymore is baffling to me #smackingdoesnotequaldiscipline,” wrote another woman while yet another said: “Any parent who hits their child is a bully. There’s other ways to discipline children without raising your hands to them.”
One criticiser wrote: “Really unwise of Scotland to ban parents from smacking their kids. They’re just asking for another generation of spoiled brats.”
“There is a different between a smack to discipline and genuinely setting out to abuse. We live in a soft ill-disciplined world,” commented another person.
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