The Courier & Advertiser (Perth and Perthshire Edition)

Smacking ban ‘not about criminalis­ing parents’

Green MSP says Scotland is ‘out of step’ with rest of the world

- caTriona WebsTer

Proposals that would ban the smacking of children are not about criminalis­ing parents, Green MSP John Finnie has said.

Mr Finnie defended his plan for a Member’s Bill to remove the defence of “justifiabl­e assault”, which allows parents to use physical punishment to admonish a child, as he launched a consultati­on on the move.

The Highlands and Islands MSP said Scotland was “out of step” with the rest of the world on the issue and had been “roundly condemned” by the UN.

The proposed smacking ban has the support of organisati­ons including the Church of Scotland, the Associatio­n of Scottish Police Superinten­dents, NSPCC, Children 1st, the Children and Young People’s Commission­er and Barnardo’s.

Opponents argue the change in the law would erode the rights of parents.

The Rev David Robertson, a moderator at the Free Church of Scotland, argued the move was “completely unnecessar­y”.

He told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “It’s already against the law to hit a child on the head or to hit with an implement or to shake.

“This is going to criminalis­e good parents, just for tapping their child on the hand.”

He added: The whole position is illogical, it’s virtue signalling, it’s middle class elites ... criminalis­ing good working class parents.”

Responding to the criticism on the same programme, Mr Finnie said: “This isn’t about criminalis­ing anyone. This is about supporting parents and most importantl­y giving the most vulnerable people in our society equal protection from assault.

“This is not about criminalis­ing any more than legislatio­n about seatbelts in cars.”

He continued: “The express purpose of this Bill is to give equal protection for assault and that will prohibit physical punishment by parents and others caring for or in charge of children.

“That will be achieved by ending the current legal position that physical punishment of children can be viewed as justifiabl­e assault.”

Mr Finnie acknowledg­ed there were people who had been smacked as children who believed it had done them no harm, but added: “We have to address the small minority who would be seriously damaged by this and all the evidence suggests that it is in every child’s interest to find themselves in a safe and nurturing position, that’s best for brain developmen­t. All the experts say this.”

Members of the public will be able to respond to the consultati­on until August 4.

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