Implementation of the new law to ban smacking should be put on hold, campaigners have urged the Scottish Government.

And all available Holyrood resources should instead be invested in fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

MSPs passed the smacking ban earlier this year but it is not expected to come into force until November.

The hiatus was intended to secure time for a public awareness campaign and for various agencies – including Police Scotland – to make the necessary operational preparations and changes to existing procedures.

But now the Be Reasonable campaign, which spearheaded opposition to the legislation, has written to Children and Young People Minister Maree Todd calling for the law to be paused in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis.

Spokesman Simon Calvert stated in his letter to Ms Todd:

“We recognise the immense pressure upon Government, and in particular as you work to support children and families across Scotland facing uncertainty and hardship.

“We note that, in response to the current extraordinary situation, the Scottish Government has announced a pause to the proposed independence referendum this year.

“The commitment to directing all possible resources towards tackling the current public health crisis is universally shared.”

Mr Calvert continued: “We therefore urge the Scottish Government to also pause implementation of the Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Act, which is due to come into force in November.

“You will be aware that we oppose this legislation in principle. But regardless of whether people support or oppose it, it is clear that appropriate time and resources are needed to ensure adequate awareness raising is carried out and that public bodies can make the necessary changes for the implementation of such a major social change.”

Referring to potential problems relating to the enforcement of the ban, Mr Calvert stated in his letter:

“Police Scotland… has said that a smacking ban would likely have a ‘significant impact’ on the force. It seems unfair to impose this upon the police at a time of crisis.”

Be Reasonable noted that the Welsh Government’s equivalent law – the Children (Abolition of Defence of Reasonable Punishment) (Wales) Act – is not set to come into force until March 2022, after receiving Royal Assent last month.

This means Wales has factored in a two-year implementation period.

Mr Calvert stated that the Welsh Assembly Committee which scrutinised the Bill recommended in its Stage 1 Report that “the Welsh Government allow sufficient time between Royal Assent and commencement of the Bill’s substantive provision (to remove the defence of reasonable punishment)”.

He said that the Welsh Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services Julie Morgan AM responded, writing:

“I have made my view clear that I consider a period of up to 2 years between Royal Assent and commencement should allow sufficient time to carry out awareness raising, so that the public have time to understand the implications of this law and, if needed, identify ways to discipline their children that do not include physically punishing them.

“This approach also provides time to take account of how the public bodies involved work together; to refine processes, procedures, guidance and training; and put any diversion scheme and associated arrangements in place prior to bringing the Act into force.

“The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in their written evidence welcomed this approach and the Children’s Commissioner for Wales in her evidence has stated: ‘I note and understand the requirement to have a suitable period post Royal Assent (should the Bill pass) in order to do the training, awareness and updating of documents’.”

Mr Calvert concluded:

“Given all the necessary changes to procedures for multiple agencies, the sizeable social impact of the legislation, and the need for a large-scale public awareness campaign, the Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Act clearly cannot come into force in November.

“For the sake of families and frontline workers we urge you to adopt a two-year implementation period, and to confirm that the November deadline will be dropped.”