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Scotland first UK country to ban smacking of children

MSPs at Holyrood voted to change the law giving children the same protection as adults.

Ban: Scotland has outlawed smacking.
Ban: Scotland has outlawed smacking.

Scotland has become the first country in the UK to ban parents and carers from smacking children.

Holyrood passed a Member's Bill brought forward by Green MSP John Finnie. MSPs vote to change the law to ban their physical punishment on Thursday night.

The ban give children the same protection from violence as adults by removing the defence of "justifiable assault" in Scots law.

The Bill faced its final vote after the former police officer called for cross-party support for the "vital legal protections for Scotland's children".

When it passed the first stage towards becoming law, it was approved by 80 votes to 29.

Finnie then compared the legislation to other law changes such as the smoking ban and drink-driving rules which aimed to inspire widespread social change.

John Finnie brought forward the Member's Bill.
John Finnie brought forward the Member's Bill. STV

MSPs voted by 84 to 29 in favour of introducing the law which will make it a criminal offence for parents to use physical punishment against a child.

Parents and carers are allowed to use "reasonable" physical force in order to discipline children.

But the law change gives children the same protection from assault as adults.

It also as brings Scotland into line with United Nations recommendations.

The Bill was passed at the Scottish Government on Thursday, despite a YouGov poll of 1546 UK adults which suggested 57% oppose the move.

Finnie said passage of the Bill sent a 'strong message' that violence is never acceptable.
Finnie said passage of the Bill sent a 'strong message' that violence is never acceptable.

Finnie said passage of the Bill sent a "strong message" that violence is never acceptable.

He said: "I am absolutely delighted that the Scottish Parliament has taken this historic and courageous step.

"The leadership shown by MSPs will send a strong message that violence is never acceptable in any setting, and that our children deserve at least the same legal protections that adults enjoy.

"Physical punishment has no place in 21st century Scotland. The international evidence tells us that it can have serious impacts on children, and that it is not effective.

"As I have progressed this campaign over the last three years, it has become clear just how many people believed that striking a child was already outlawed.

"I am extremely proud to have brought forward the legislation that will enhance children's rights in Scotland and believe that today we have taken a huge step toward making Scotland the best country in the world for children to grow up in."

Scottish Conservative MSP Oliver Mundell said he could not support the Bill.
Scottish Conservative MSP Oliver Mundell said he could not support the Bill.

Finnie earlier addressed critics of the Bill, who suggested it could criminalise parents.

He said: "There is no evidence that a change to the law results in increased prosecutions in any of the more than 50 countries where some of the reforms have taken place.

"In fact, this change in the law in Ireland prompted more parents to contact services to ask for help and support with alternative disciplining techniques.

"Surely this is something which should be welcomed and an encouraging consequence of a positive legal change."

He said many support services, both within the Government and in the third sector, anticipate a similar reaction in Scotland to that in Ireland and are ready to help parents with the change.

But Scottish Conservative MSP Oliver Mundell said he could not support the Bill.

He added: "I believe violence against children is wrong. However, that is not the issue before us today.

"Today we are being asked to pass into law primary legislation that is imprecise and suboptimal.

"I don't think that it's foreseeable at all for parents what circumstances they could find themselves entangled with the criminal justice system."

Scottish Labour MSP Mary Fee hailed the Bill as "an important step forward for children's rights" and called for for adequate funding to publicise the change in law.

She said: "There needs to be a co-ordinated campaign message so that parents, care-givers, teachers and social workers are aware of the implications of the changes being made."

Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton added: "Today, Scotland joins a family of more enlightened nations.

"Those countries who have recognised that the measure of a modern and progressive nation is in the rights it extends to its most vulnerable citizens and in the protection it offers its children."

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