Campaigners call for smacking ban delay in open letter to MSPs

Opponents of the new smacking ban have called for the implementation of the new law to be paused due to claims the Scottish government has “failed” to adequately raise awareness.

Is smacking of children 'reasonable chastisement' or criminal assault? (Picture: John Devlin)
Is smacking of children 'reasonable chastisement' or criminal assault? (Picture: John Devlin)

The ban will see smacking and other forms of physical discipline against children no longer protected by the defence of “reasonable chastisement” which had previously protected parents from being charged with assault and will come into force on November 7.

Critics such as the Be Reasonable campaign say the ban will see members of the public calling the police on parents for “tapping a child on the bum” and warned Scots would be “unaware”.

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The Scottish government state the ban provides children with the same protection as adults and is backed by the majority of public opinion.

In a letter to MSPs signed by child psychologist and former president of the British Psychological Society, Professor Tommy Mackay and other academics and parenting experts, opponents call on the ban to be put on hold due to a lack of awareness raising.

The letter states: “Given the failure of Ministers adequately to raise awareness and the likely confusion amongst parents that will result from this mixed messaging, we believe it is necessary to pause implementation of the Act.

“Families in Scotland deserve to know the full facts about the new law, including the possibility of prosecution if they continue to smack their children. And children deserve to know the true ramifications of reporting parents.

"Failing to make the public aware of these facts would lead to injustice, resulting in stressful intervention in loving homes. We appeal to MSPs of all parties to call for a halt to implementation before this damage is done.”

A Scottish government spokesperson said: “This important legislation gives children the same legal protection from assault as adults – something backed by an overwhelming majority of public opinion.

"We have published information on our website about the Act, and have worked with stakeholders to share advice about this change with a wide audience.

“In line with our commitment to support parents as part of our work on this Act, we have also published information about positive parenting techniques on ParentClub. Based on experience from elsewhere, we do not expect a large number of prosecutions.”

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