Thousands of “loving parents” across Scotland may find themselves criminalised under controversial new laws to make the country the first part of the UK to ban smacking, campaigners have warned.
The proposals by Green MSP John Finnie, expected to be launched next week, have been branded “unworkable” by the Be Reasonable organisation which opposes the move and has pledged to step up its campaign of opposition as Holyrood returns next week.
Supporters insist that it will protect children from assault and place Scotland among other “progressive” nations. There are now just over 50 countries around the world where smacking is banned, including Ireland, where it was outlawed in 2015.
The Scottish Government, which has announced it will support Finnie’s proposal will unveil its legislative programme for the year ahead as parliament returns.
But the smacking proposals threaten to provoke the same kind of test of Scotland’s national psyche which was witnessed over the recent Named Person and gay marriage debates.
A spokesman for the Be Reasonable campaign opposing the ban said: “The SNP was in the vanguard of opposition in 2002 when it was branded unworkable. Now they’ve become cheerleaders for proposals which will criminalise parents for lovingly chastising their children with a simple tap on the hand.
“Nothing has changed since the last time. The ban is still unpopular as opinion polls have shown with just shy of 75 per cent against any ban. It was found to be unworkable then and it’s unworkable now.”
A three-month public consultation was conducted into Finnie’s proposals which will see the defence of “reasonable chastisement” removed from Scots law, in relation to the physical punishment of children. It found 75 per cent of respondents were supportive of the changes.
The Scottish Police Federation, the Church of Scotland, the Equality & Human Rights Commission, Children 1st and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and Scottish Women’s Aid were among the groups which supported the change.
It also drew support from MSPs of all parties across the political spectrum at Holyrood.
Supporters point to substantial academic research from around the world which indicates that physical punishment does not work and is shown to be counterproductive. The United Nations is clear that legal provisions which allow any level of violent punishment of children are not compatible with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and ought to be repealed.
The bill will also seek to help parents to make “positive choices” about how they discipline their children.
A spokesman for the Scottish Greens said: “John’s bill will ensure Scotland joins other progressive nations. Affording children less protection from assault than adults is an anomaly in Scots law which should be remedied.
“Opponents are entitled to their opinion but who are they?”
Holyrood has previously looked at proposals to ban smacking in 2002, but these were abandoned amid a growing political outcry.