On 7th November 2020 Scots law changed to make it clear that children in Scotland can no longer be physically punished. 


Many children and families across Scotland supported our campaign to change the law on physical punishment but you may have seen some stories in the media about this change which you may have found confusing or worrying. There are lots of different words for physical punishment including smacking, skelping, spanking and slapping.


The most important things to know about why the law changed and what it means for families are:
  • The change in law means that children will have the same – or equal – protection from assault as adults. It does not introduce a new criminal offence and Scotland’s child protection guidance remains the same. The law that already existed to protect adults from all forms of assault will now apply to children as well.


  • The change in law means that you can still stop your child from getting into danger for example grabbing them if they run into the road but you won’t be able to smack them afterwards.


  • Many families in Scotland already raise their children without using physical punishment. There are lots of different ways to raise your children without physical punishment and you can still choose between these in how you manage your children’s behaviour and bring them up. There’s lots of support out there for parents and carers who would like to talk about other options.


  • Physical punishment doesn’t work – there have been lots of studies from around the world which show that physical punishment doesn’t teach children to behave differently and that it can make relationships between children and their parents/carers worse.


  • Physical punishment can harm children – today we know a lot more about how children’s brains develop and it has been repeatedly shown that physical punishment can do long term harm to children’s physical and emotional health.
You can find more information about the change to the law on the Scottish Government’s website and Parentclub has lots of tips about how to manage children’s behaviour.
If you need to talk to someone about what the change in law means for your family, or managing your children’s behaviour our Children 1st Parentline team can give you free, non-judgmental support. If you need to talk – we’re here for you.