Scotland has become the first country in the UK to make smacking children illegal, meaning that parents will no longer be able to physically punish their children in a significant milestone for children’s rights.
The bill, which removes the defence of “justifiable assault” from Scots law, was passed on Thursday evening with 84 MSPs voting in favour and 29 against.
Currently, law in England and Northern Ireland allows parents to use physical force if it can be seen as “reasonable chastisement” – but they can face criminal charges if they hit the child so hard that it leaves a mark or causes injury.
The law in Wales mimics that of Scotland prior to the new bill that was passed; however, the Welsh Assembly is now close to passing an outright ban.
Improving Children’s Rights
Image Credit: John Finnie MSP (L). Edinburgh Greens/Flickr. Children’s Commissioner Bruce Adamson (R), Children’s Commissioner.
The passing of the bill comes after Scotland’s Children and Young People’s Commissioner, Bruce Adamson, said that the ban was “long overdue” to bring Scotland in line with its human rights obligations.
Celebrating the passing of the bill, Adamson said it should “inspire” the rest of the UK to follow suit, but that more needed to be done to ensure that children had total equality and protection.
“The world is watching, and people hope this will inspire other parts of the UK, but we cannot be complacent as there’s much more we can do to put rights-respecting laws in place, like incorporation of the UN convention on the rights of the child [UNCRC] into Scots law,” Adamson said.
Scotland has joined 57 other countries globally which specifically ban the hitting of children in law.
Why Did People Vote Against The Smacking Bill?
Image Credit: Pexels
The bill received overwhelming support, although a number of critics expressed fears that the bill would “criminalise parents.”
Oliver Mundell, a Scottish Conservative MSP, pushed for amendments to the bill which would have “clarified” instances of having to use force, such as pulling a child out of the way of traffic, as legal.
“These concerns about criminalisation have been dismissed throughout the passage of this bill but the truth is no one here can guarantee how this bill will be implemented and interpreted by the police, prosecutors or our courts,” Mundell said.
However, John Finnie, who introduced the bill, said there was no evidence that the bill would be misinterpreted.
“Critics of this simple reform often say that it criminalises parents, but there is no evidence that this change to the law leads to increased prosecutions in any of the more than 50 countries where this change has taken place,” Finnie said.