Scotland is set to become the first part of the UK to ban parents from smacking their children, after the SNP confirmed that it will back a change to the law.
The Scottish Government said it would “ensure” that proposals put forward by the Green MSP John Finnie were implemented, after previously suggesting it would merely not oppose them
Mr Finnie has brought forward a Member’s Bill which aims to remove the defence of “justifiable assault” from Scottish law, which can currently be used by parents who punish their children.
In her Programme for Government speech last month, Nicola Sturgeon announced that ministers would not oppose his proposals, suggesting that MSPs should be given a free vote on the issue.
The First Minister also noted that around 50 countries around the world – including France, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and the Republic of Ireland – had banned smacking. Scottish Labour said earlier this week that it would be supporting Mr Finnie’s Bill and on Wednesday night the Scottish Government said it would pass.
READ MORE: Smacking children: what are the current laws?
“Mr Finnie’s proposals are not a Scottish Government Bill, however we will ensure the proposals become law,” a spokeswoman said. “We believe physical punishment can have negative effects on children which can last long after the physical pain has died away. “We support positive parenting through, for example, funding for family support services.”
A vote on the issue is expected to be held in the Scottish Parliament next year.
If passed, Scotland would become the first part of the UK to effectively ban parents from smacking their children.
The UK is one of only five EU countries to allow smacking, despite the United Nations urging the country to legislate to outlaw it in the home in 2015.
READ MORE: Scots law on smacking children criticised by commissioner
There is no ban in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, with parents allowed to use “reasonable chastisement” as long as they do not leave a mark, swelling, cut or bruise.
“It is especially welcome that the Scottish Government has reiterated its support for my bill because there is clear evidence that the use of physical punishment is detrimental to children’s long term health and wellbeing,”
Mr Finnie said. “Giving children equal protection against assault will send a clear message to all of us about how we treat each other and underpin Scotland’s efforts to reduce violence.”
Mr Finnie’s proposals had gathered widespread support, with the move backed by the Law Society of Scotland, children’s charities and the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents.
The nation’s Children’s Commissioner, Bruce Adamson, has previously criticised the Scottish Government’s reluctance to change the law on smacking, which he described as “absolutely shocking”.
He said in July: “We still in Scotland say that it’s okay for a parent or carer to assault a child for the purpose of physical punishment, and that that can be justified, which is just untenable in international human rights terms.
“I think it really goes against the basic values that we hold in Scotland in terms of human dignity and respect for children.”