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Scotland’s Fight for the Ban on Parents Smacking their Children

ByCaroline Bernet

Oct 29, 2017

The Scottish Government is currently working towards passing a law that would no longer permit adults to smack their child as a form of punishment. No other country in the United Kingdom has made any efforts to pass a law as such. In fact, the rest of the UK has legislation allowing parents to use any punishment they like that does not show any kind of mark on the child. Under current Scottish law, parents may hit their children so long as they do not use an instrument, use undue force or shake them.

Scottish Green Party MSP John Finnie sees the task of changing legislation as urgent: “…there is clear evidence that the use of physical punishment is detrimental to children’s long-term health and wellbeing.”

There are already 42 and counting states that have worked to ban smacking children. The United Nations has been working since 2015 to ban smacking worldwide and yet the UK not made any such procedures.

Finnie continues to press this issue in Scotland as he has said that it, “…will send a clear message to all of us about how we treat each other and underpin Scotland’s efforts to reduce violence.”  

When this bill was originally proposed, the government did not push for it – in fact they merely stated that it “would not be opposed.” Now however, the Scottish Government has stated that they will ensure that this bill becomes a law.

Since the push for this law in Scotland has become public, the children’s commissioners England, Wales, and Northern Ireland have all released statements about their current legislation on the matter. They share a common disappointment that the current laws in place are out-of-date, and hope to follow in Scotland’s footsteps on the matter.

This would mean that Scotland would be the forefront of this movement to finally enforce legislation to end the smacking of children. By extending this to the entire UK, the actual location of a victimised child would not be applicable – the law will ban smacking throughout and across the entirety of the UK.  

Commissioner for Children’s and Young People in Scotland, Bruce Adamson, said: “Scotland has the potential to be the first country in the UK to bring about the legal change necessary to provide children with equal protection from assault.

“If we pride ourselves on being a progressive country, a country which values children and is committed to offering them the best outcomes in life, then we need to make sure that this legislative change happens at the very earliest opportunity.”

The Scottish Government hopes that this law will become a reality in the near future and hopefully lead the rest of the UK to follow.  


Image: Ivan Lai

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