Time for children and young people’s views on physical punishment to be heard say Children 1st and the Scottish Youth Parliament

As Holyrood’s Equalities and Human Rights Committee reach the end of their Stage 1 scrutiny of the Children (Equal Protection from Assault) Bill, Children 1st and the Scottish Youth Parliament have issued a joint call for children and young people’s voices to be heard as the legislation progresses through the Scottish Parliament.

With the Committee’s Stage 1 Report due to be published imminently, Scotland’s national children’s charity and the Scottish Youth Parliament have highlighted evidence that rates of physical punishment are declining and most children and young people want to see legal reform to remove the defence of "justifiable assault".

In advance of the last Scottish Parliament elections, the Scottish Youth Parliament’s Lead the Way manifesto revealed that 82% of over 72,000 responses from Scotland’s young people agreed that all physical assault against children should be illegal. Feedback from 260 pupils who participated in the Equalities and Human Rights Committee ‘meeting in a box’ to gather evidence from children and young people about the Bill show that 66% of them support the Bill.

In total, 86% of the witnesses who gave oral evidence to the Committee at Stage 1 backed the legal reform to give children the same protection from assault as adults.

Commenting on the figures, Mary Glasgow, Chief Executive of Children 1st said: "The resounding message from parenting organisations, academics and statutory agencies to Holyrood is that Scotland will no longer tolerate physical punishment of children. Physical punishment doesn’t work, can do harm and there is no evidence from countries like Ireland and New Zealand that changing the law will increase convictions against parents.

"Children and young people, those who are most affected by this legislation, see no place for physical punishment in their future. Rates of physical punishment among younger parents are declining and most children and young people want to see legal reform. It’s time their voices were given more consideration. Scotland’s bairns want to grow up knowing they have as much protection from violence at home as they do on the street.

"If a Bill was introduced in Holyrood today that allowed parents to hit their children, there would be an outcry. How can anybody defend a law that allows it to continue?"

Suki Wan, MSYP and Chair of the Scottish Youth Parliament said: "As it currently stands, an act of violence inflicted on an adult is treated far more seriously than if something similar occurs to our children and young people. If Scotland wants to lead the way in enshrining children’s rights in Scots Law, this has to change.

"This Bill will send a bold message that Scotland does not tolerate violence, and, in the First Minister’s words, ensure that our country is “meeting the UN’s gold standard on children’s rights."