‘Smacking ban an affront to loving parents and marginalised communities’

Scotland’s smacking ban is an affront to loving parents and marginalised communities, campaigners say, as the controversial legislation comes into force.

From today, all physical discipline of children is a criminal offence following the repeal of the reasonable chastisement defence. Parents who continue to use mild physical discipline are liable to arrest and prosecution for criminal assault.

Commenting on the new law, a spokesman for Be Reasonable Scotland, which spearheaded opposition to the smacking ban, said:

“Anti-smacking activists will be celebrating today as the ban comes into force across Scotland. To them, it’s a ‘historic change’ which brings ‘equal protection’. These activists can repeat their rhetoric until they’re blue in the face but the reality of the situation is very different.

“Existing laws strongly safeguarded children from abuse at the hands of adults. The reasonable chastisement defence merely stated that parents who use very mild discipline – a tap on the hand or smack on the bum – should not be prosecuted for assault. With the removal of this provision, even the mildest physical discipline will be treated as abuse.

“In the years ahead, loving parents who have had no contact with the authorities previously and who present no risk to their children will face stressful intervention, blacklisting on police databases and even criminal records for smacking. The majority of Scots see this as an injustice, not a positive change.”

The spokesman continued:

“Evidence from other countries shows that those most affected by lowering the bar for intervention into family life are working class and immigrant families, simply because services are more likely to have contact with their communities.

“The middle class professionals who approved this change in the law don’t have to worry about stressful intervention in their family lives. It is the poor and the marginalised in society who will suffer the impact of this change in the law.”

‘Call the cops on parents who smack’

Last month, Be Reasonable highlighted shocking Government guidance urging members of the public to “call 999 to report a crime in progress” if they see a parent smacking a child.

The advice is included in official publications sent to local authorities and other stakeholders ahead of the ban coming into effect.

Leaflets for children state that physical punishment is “not allowed” and encourage kids to report their parents to the police.

One leaflet, titled ‘Physical punishment & you’, advises: “Want to talk to someone? You can talk to an adult you trust. This might be a teacher or a nurse. Or you can call ChildLine on 0800 1111.”

A second leaflet, titled ‘Physical punishment & you: questions and answers’, states: “Physical punishment has lots of meanings. But from 7 November, none of it will be allowed.

“If you’re worried, it can be good to talk. You can talk to an adult that you trust. That person might be a teacher. Or a nurse or police officer. Or you can call Childline for free on 0800 1111.”

Woeful lack of awareness-raising

Be Reasonable has also criticised the Scottish Government for failing to raise awareness of the smacking legislation over the last 12 months.

A letter from a Scottish Government official to an inquisitive local authority in June, obtained under freedom of information laws, states that Ministers “are not planning a national marketing campaign” on the smacking ban – despite the major cultural change it represents.

The Scottish Government set aside just £20,000 for awareness-raising – far less than in the smaller jurisdiction of Wales. Welsh Ministers ring-fenced almost £2,759,000 to raise awareness about its smacking legislation, which comes into force in 2022.

The spokesman added:

“Other major cultural changes like the smoking ban were heralded through TV and radio adverts, posters and public notices. But parents in Scotland are supposed to have a sixth sense when it comes to the ban on smacking. The first some parents will hear of the ban will be when they answer the phone to a social worker, or answer the door to a police officer, after being reported for using physical discipline.

“Activists and politicians who supported this change in the law will not be so triumphant when the horror stories start to emerge – police and social work intervention in perfectly good families and overburdened child protection professionals struggling to identify at-risk children amidst a heavy smacking-related workload. Perhaps the negative experiences of parents in the years ahead will provide a catalyst to see this draconian legislation repealed.”


Notes to editors:

The Be Reasonable campaign is a grassroots coalition of parents, academics and politicians. Find out more on the Be Reasonable Scotland website.

Issued on behalf of Be Reasonable Scotland by:

Tom Hamilton Communications
Mob: 07836 603 977