Scotland becomes first UK country to ban smacking

Scotland is voting on a move to ban smacking children [Photo: Getty]

Scotland has become the first country in the UK to make it a criminal offence for parents to smack their children.

Under current legislation parents and carers can use "reasonable" force to discipline children.

But on Thursday MSPs voted in favour of a smacking ban which would give children the same protection from violence as adults by removing the defence of justifiable assault.

All physical punishment is already banned in schools and other educational settings but yesterday MSPs voted by 84 to 29 in favour of the Bill at the Scottish Government.

The change to the law was originally proposed by Scottish Greens MSP, John Finnie, who said the result sent a “strong message” that violence is never acceptable: “I am absolutely delighted that the Scottish Parliament has taken this historic and courageous step.

“Physical violence has no place in 21st century Scotland. The international evidence tells us that it can have serious impacts on children, and that it is not effective.”

Ahead of the vote, Mr Finnie explained why he believed the move was so important: "This evening the Scottish Parliament has the opportunity to show courageous leadership by putting in place vital legal protections for Scotland's children.

"It is staggering that our smallest and most vulnerable citizens are the only people who do not currently have this protection, and now is the time to rectify that."

READ MORE: Social media 'sadfishing' trend harming children's mental health, but what is it?

Children’s campaigners hailed the result of the vote as “a momentous day for children’s rights”.

Joanna Barrett, of NSPCC Scotland, said: “It’s a common sense move that closes an archaic loophole and ensures that, finally, children in Scotland will have the same protection from assault as adults.”

However, not everyone will welcome the result. A campaign against the ban has been led by the Be Reasonable Scotland group, which argues that parents should decide whether to smack their children, not the government.

They also believe the current law already protects children from abuse and should be enforced, not changed.

The Parental Attitudes Towards Managing Young Children’s Behaviour 2017 survey found only 11% of parents with young children reported they had smacked their children in the last six months.

Earlier this year it was announced Wales were looking to introduce a ban on smacking which would stop fathers, mothers and other adults acting in a parental capacity from physically punishing their children.

Speaking about the potential legislation change Julie Morgan, the deputy minister for health and social services, said: “We are sending a clear message that the physical punishment of children is not acceptable in Wales. What may have been deemed as appropriate in the past is no longer acceptable. Our children must feel safe and be treated with dignity.”

Should smacking children be banned? [Photo: Getty]

READ MORE: Parents could face 'bold action' for failing to vaccinate their children

If the ban on smacking is granted, Scotland will join the 54 countries around the world which have already banned the physical punishment of children. Sweden was the first to do so back in 1979, and is now joined by including Greece, Latvia, Albania, DR Congo and Kenya.

In the UK, US and Australia ‘reasonable chastisement’ is still allowed.

Back in 2017 a university lecturer spoke out about her desire to see smacking made illegal.

Felicity Gerry, a law lecturer at Charles Darwin University in Australia believes spanking, hitting or smacking a child should be outlawed.

“Slapping, spanking, smacking and hitting a child with a wooden paddle are forms of violence that would amount to assault if applied to an adult,” she told The Daily Telegraph.

Her comments come after last year it was revealed that smacking children in the UK could be banned if a UN inquiry ruled in favour of making the parenting practice illegal.