Local councillors overwhelmingly oppose smacking ban, survey suggests

• 225 Scottish councillors responded
• 7 in 10 say parents should be allowed to use reasonable chastisement
• 7 in 10 against smacking being criminalised
• 3 in 4 say councils unable to cope with ban
• 7 in 10 say social workers unable to cope with ban

A survey of Scottish councillors reveals huge opposition to the smacking ban, with 7 in 10 opposed to a ban, and 3 in 4 fearing councils do not have the resources to cope.

The survey, covering councillors of every party, found that 7 in 10 respondents think parents should be allowed to use reasonable chastisement (smacking), and the same number do not think smacking should be a criminal offence.

Further analysis showed significant opposition in each of the main parties:

Q. Should parents be permitted to use reasonable chastisement with their children?
– SNP (50% yes, 48% no)
– Labour (62% yes, 38% no)
– Conservative (85% yes, 15% no)
– Lib Dem (50% yes, 50% no)
– Independent (79% yes, 19% no)

The findings indicate a stark divide between the views of local politicians and Members of the Scottish Parliament, who voted to outlaw parental smacking in September this year.

Campaign group Be Reasonable said the survey proves the Scottish Government, which championed John Finnie MSP’s member’s Bill to ban smacking, is out-of-step with those it expects to implement the legislation, which is due to come into force next year.

Spokesman for the group Jamie Gillies commented:
“We have long known the Government is out of touch with the public on this issue. Now it seems it is out of touch with the people tasked with implementing the smacking ban – local councillors. Like the Scottish public, the majority of councillors responding said reasonable chastisement should be allowed, and felt parents should not be criminalised for smacking their children.

“Interestingly, strong opposition exists across political lines, with a large percentage of SNP, Labour, Conservative, Lib Dem and Independent councillors opposed to the change in law. When significant numbers of councillors in all of the main parties oppose legislation the Government should take notice.”

The survey also highlights deep concern over implementation of a ban at local authority level. A staggering 3 in 4 councillors said they do not believe their council has sufficient resources to cope with additional pressures brought about by a smacking ban, whilst 7 in 10 said social work teams would fail to cope with additional caseloads.

More than 7 in 10 councillors felt that the Government should finance the implications of a smacking ban “as fully as necessary over time” and provide “public assurances that no other frontline services will be affected as a consequence of the Bill diverting resources”.

So far, the Scottish Government has not agreed to release any extra funds to local authorities to assist them in implementing a ban. The law change could see increased pressure on social services teams and require training for teachers, health workers and others.

Mr Gillies continued: “Three quarters of councillors who completed the survey felt local authorities will not cope with additional pressures brought about by a change in the law. Crucially, social workers – who are already cracking under the pressure of identifying and helping vulnerable children – are also thought to be unable to cope. This should tell the Government that the legislation is simply not feasible.

“Many councillors seem aghast at the prospect of a smacking ban which would tie up social workers, deplete local authority resources and affect services for years to come when there is no reliable evidence to show that mild physical discipline is harmful to children. It’s seen as a waste of resources at a time of austerity and hard margins.”

Asked if they would like to leave a comment, numerous councillors criticised the smacking law:

Councillor comments

“I’m an SNP councillor and I don’t agree with the new Bill. Children do not respond to the naughty step or empty threats and some need a quick harmless smack on the leg or bottom to save them from harm like running into a road or playing with something dangerous.”

“The police and social services are already under strain due to poor resourcing from Scottish Government. As usual with Scottish Government they will simply pass the buck to hard pressed local authorities, as they have with so many other subjects. If they want this it must be fully resourced out of their annual underspend.”

“It is an impossible rule to enforce in a household and will lead to family disputes and allegations that could never be proven”.

“Whilst I agree with the sentiment and smacking really shouldn’t be a routine punishment, this legislation is overly heavy handed and is not proportionate to the issue.”

“I would support intervention and potentially punishment for those who go beyond [smacking]. I get concerned when the state becomes overbearing and this is in that territory.”

“I am not sure that enough thought has gone into making visitors aware… does this law apply to those tourists visiting from abroad?”

“I don’t think the smacking ban is going to protect the real vulnerable and exposed children.”

“Scottish Government seem to have it hard wired in to their psyche that meddling in family life is desirable and proportionate. You would have thought that the lessons from the Supreme Court re Named Persons Scheme had been learnt, clearly not.”

Be Reasonable surveyed 225 councillors between 29 November and 06 December. Respondents to the survey represent 18 per cent of local councillors in Scotland overall (225 out of 1,227). A full summary of the findings is included below.


Notes to editors:
The Be Reasonable campaign is a grassroots coalition of parents, academics and politicians. You can find out more on the Be Reasonable Scotland website: https://www.bereasonablescotland.org/

Scottish Councillor Survey – Be Reasonable Scotland 29.11.19 – 06.12.19

Be Reasonable asked 1,222 councillors in Scotland to participate in an anonymous survey on the smacking legislation. The survey ran between 29 November and 06 December and received 225 responses.