Children’s charities welcome breadth of support for move to end physical punishment

Children 1st, NSPCC Scotland, Barnardo’s Scotland have welcomed the support from across Scottish society for the Children (Equal Protection from Assault) Bill reflected in the written submissions to Holyrood’s Equality and Human Rights Committee Stage 1 consultation on the legislation published by the Scottish Parliament today (20/2/19).

A wide range of organisations including: the Church of Scotland, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, Parenting across Scotland, the Scottish Youth Parliament, CoSLA, Social Work Scotland and the Law Society of Scotland have expressed their support for the Bill, which would remove the defence of justifiable assault of children from Scots law. By doing so, it would clarify that hitting children, as a form of punishment, could never be justified in Scotland,

Welcoming the proposed legislation, the Church of Scotland submission states that, “the Church believes that the resort to violence should cease to be acceptable as our society comes to understand its negative impact.”

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health said that, “There is now very extensive evidence that children who experience hitting as a form of physical punishment are at increased risk of developing ‘externalising’ aggressive and antisocial behaviours themselves, and also at risk of developing ‘internalising’ behaviours such as anxiety, depression and problems with self-esteem. There is no evidence of any significant benefit from the use of hitting as a form of discipline.”

In addition, research carried out by Christopher Sweeney of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and William Spence of the University of Glasgow found that 60% of the parents in Glasgow they surveyed supported the Government’s plans. Of the parents that indicated they currently use physical punishment, 66% said they would “smack less” if the law was changed.

Other supporters include the Law Society of Scotland who said in their submission that the current law is “inequitable” and “welcome the clarification of the criminal law that the Bill is seeking to provide.”

Speaking on behalf of children and young people in Scotland, the response from the Scottish Youth Parliament argued that, “Children and young people merit equal, if not greater, protection from physical punishment, and certainly not less protection. This can only be done through legislation, and it needs to happen sooner rather than later.”

Mary Glasgow, Chief Executive of Children 1st said: “It’s fantastic to see such strong Scotland-wide support for the Equal Protection Bill and for children’s rights. The Bill will give parents clarity, ensure all children have the same protection from assault and bring Scots law in to step with the overwhelming evidence that there are other more positive ways parents can support their children to grow into kind, respectful; and responsible citizens.”

Joanna Barrett, policy and public affairs manager for NSPCC Scotland said: “It’s wrong that children in Scotland have less protection from assault and that a legal defence which does not exist when an adult is hit can be used to justify striking a child. We have long campaigned for equal protection for children and we strongly believe a change in the law is a common-sense move. Closing this loophole brings Scotland in line with dozens of countries across the world and is simply about fairness and equality for our children.”

Martin Crewe, Director of Barnardo's Scotland said: "This legal change to provide children in Scotland with Equal Protection from physical assault within the law has been a long time coming. Through our work with children, young people and families, we know how important positive, healthy attachments and relationships are. Children's brains develop best when they feel safe and when they are nurtured.”

"We are delighted to see so much support from across Scottish civil society for the Bill and we look forward to contributing to support its progression through the Scottish Parliament."