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Public consultation on proposed smacking ban begins

If passed, the bill would remove the defence of 'justifiable assault' in Scots law.

Punishment: Views sought into legal reform (file pic).
Punishment: Views sought into legal reform (file pic). PA

Members of the public are being asked to give their views on proposed legislation to ban smacking children in Scotland.

Holyrood's Equalities and Human Rights Committee has launched a call for views on the Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Bill.

Introduced by Green MSP John Finnie as a private member's Bill it would, if passed, remove the defence of "justifiable assault" in Scots law, which allows parents to use physical punishment on children.

The legislation is expected to be passed as it has been backed by the Scottish Government and MSPs from across all the political parties.

A recent Panelbase poll of 1024 voters for The Sunday Times Scotland found 30% backed a ban, while 53% believe smacking should still be allowed and the remainder were unsure.

However, a public consultation last year received more than 650 responses with almost 75% of those in favour of a ban.

Organisations including the Scottish Police Federation, Barnardo's Scotland, the Church and Society Council of the Church of Scotland and the NSPCC also back outlawing smacking.

Campaign group Be Reasonable Scotland, supported by The Christian Institute, argues a ban will "criminalise parents" who smack their children.

Ruth Maguire, Equalities and Human Rights Committee convener, said: "There are passionately held beliefs on both sides of this argument, from those who think that physical punishment violates a child's human rights, to those who feel parents should have a right to smack their children.

"As the proposed law starts making its way through the Parliamentary process, we are keen to hear from people in Scotland who have a view on this subject.

"This will help us as we carry out our role as parliamentarians and inform our consideration of the proposals.

"While committee members will be getting out and about around Scotland, engaging with young people and community groups, absolutely anyone can submit their views to us."

A spokesman for Be Reasonable Scotland said: "More than 140 countries around the world continue to respect parents' freedom, and responsibility, to discipline their children appropriately.

"This Bill could see them in the dock for simply tapping their kids on the back of the hand or pulling them away from the side of the road."

He added: "Children rightly enjoy strong protections from assault. It is highly irresponsible and deeply misleading to suggest otherwise."

The call for views closes on January 25.

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