Scots advised by SNP government to phone 999 if they see parents smacking their children

·3 min read
A smacking ban comes into force in Scotland next month -  The Image Bank RF
A smacking ban comes into force in Scotland next month - The Image Bank RF

Scots who see a parent smacking their child should dial 999 and report a crime from next month, SNP government guidance published has advised.

The Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Act 2019, which bans physical punishment and discipline, comes into force north of the Border on Nov 7.

Scottish ministers yesterday published public guidance on the law change, which will remove the legal defence of “reasonable chastisement” that allows parents to smack a child under 16.

Under the headline "if you see someone physically punishing their child", the advice said: "You should call 999 to report a crime in progress or if a child or young person is in immediate danger.

"You can also call the police on 101 if you think a crime has been committed." 

The other options listed were calling the local council or the Crimestoppers phone line "to report a crime anonymously." It said: "They'll pass the information about the crime to the police."  

Scotland will next month become the first part of the UK to ban smacking, with Wales following suit in 2022. New Zealand and Sweden are among the countries where it has already been outlawed.

Opponents of the change said the guidance contradicted previous assurances that the ban would not turn "ordinary, decent mums and dads into criminals".

Dr Ashley Frawley, a sociologist and spokeswoman for campaign group Be Reasonable, said: “Parents and carers in Scotland should be outraged at the dishonesty of the political class. A smacking ban was completely unnecessary. 

"There is no evidence that light physical discipline harms children, and current laws already criminalise abuse.

"The ban is nothing but a virtue signalling exercise by out-of-touch elites. They may feel good about themselves just now but ordinary mums and dads will pay a heavy price."

The new guidance said physical punishment "can take many forms, including  smacking, skelping, spanking and slapping" and the Act gives children "the same legal protection from assault as adults."

It said parents are permitted to " pull your child out of a busy road" as "you're protecting them". However, it added: "If you smack your child afterwards, you’re physically punishing them."

MSPs approved a private member's Bill from John Finnie, a Green MSP, a year ago with only the Tories opposed. However, opinion polls indicated that a majority of Scots opposed the change.

Maree Todd, the SNP's Children's Minister, told Holyrood in May last year: "I assure members that our intention is not to criminalise parents.”

A Scottish Parliament inquiry into the ban admitted there would be a spike in parents being reported to the authorities about children being physically punished.

But it claimed this would be "short-lived, as public education about use of alternatives to smacking will become ingrained", and there would be a longer term culture change.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "This important legislation gives children the same legal protections as adults – something backed by an overwhelming majority of public opinion. 

“Based on experience from elsewhere, we do not expect a large number of prosecutions.”

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