MSPs Face Backlash from Mums and Dads as Scale of Public Anger Revealed For First Time
MSPs face a backlash after the enormous scale of public opposition to the proposed smacking ban was revealed for the first time.
Detailed analysis shows that almost 90 per cent of submissions to a recent consultation are against John Finnie MSP’s proposal to remove the defence of reasonable chastisement and make smacking a criminal offence.
And a massive 97 per cent of submissions made by individual members of the public have condemned the plan to criminalise mums and dads for smacking their kids.
Two serving police officers wrote to object. One stated the force would be “overwhelmed” with “trivial” complaints.
The other, involved in child protection work for many years, says there is “no appetite” for the proposed ban in the force.
Police Scotland, in its own submission, has expressed reservations, stating costs will rise as officers have to probe more complaints.
The force also warned that the legislation could be interpreted as “state intervention/interference in family life where parents and carers are ‘criminalised’ for behaviour that was previously accepted and supported by a statutory defence for generations”.
The figures were compiled by Be Reasonable Scotland, the group spearheading opposition to the legislation, which is now being scrutinised by Holyrood’s Equality and Human Rights Committee (EHRiC).
Be Reasonable spokesman Simon Calvert said:
“We have carried out forensic research into the 437 submissions made on the Finnie Bill and the results demonstrate what we have been saying since the outset – a smacking ban is unwanted, unwarranted and unworkable.
“The public doesn’t like it and parents object to this latest intrusion into family life by those who want to impose their own parenting preferences on every home in Scotland.
“More than 370 individuals who responded to the consultation opposed Mr Finnie’s Bill. By contrast, only 11 individuals spoke in favour of it.”
While the vast majority of individuals (97%) opposed the Bill in their submissions, many organisations endorsed the ban.
Mr Calvert said that this reveals a “huge disconnect between ‘professionals’ and ordinary mums and dads.
He added: “The evidence clearly shows that the vast majority of Scots do not back this ban and they need to communicate this to their MSPs before it’s too late.
“There are 614,000 families with dependent children in Scotland and many of these parents face the threat of being criminalised if this Bill goes through and they are found to have given their child a light smack. That’s chilling.”
There has also been opposition to John Finnie’s Bill from public sector organisations including NHS Orkney and Orkney Island Council.
A Freedom of Information request (http://bit.ly/NHSOrkneyResponse) reveals that in a joint questionnaire response, the organisations noted possible disadvantages including:
• “Risk of prosecution (likely to include a risk of increased use of custody in current Scottish criminal legal system) being disproportionate in its outcome to the objective level of harm inflicted in some cases.”
• “Risk of enforcement action being used disproportionately among sectors of society already disadvantaged by poverty and limited education.”
• And a “Risk of undermining confidence of parents who have used physical chastisement, exaggerating a sense of failure.”
They add that the Bill would see a “significant increase” in child protection referrals, stating:
“The law as it currently stands effectively prohibits all but the very lowest range of potentially harmful behaviours, and appears to enjoy support and consent amongst a majority of the public. We therefore suggest that the move to change the law must be accompanied by safeguards to ensure that only proportionate, positive reinforcement methods are pursued in response to reported transgressions of matters that, until this change, would not have been captured in a legal framework.”
Be Reasonable has voiced concern about the balance of the committee scrutinising the smacking Bill. The Equality and Human Rights Committee is made up of seven MSPs, five of whom have expressed their support of the ban.
The convener of the committee, SNP MSP Ruth Maguire, also happens to be the daughter of John Finnie, who authored the Bill.
To date, based on public information, 94% of witnesses called to give evidence support the Bill.
Mr Calvert added: “By the end of the week (March 8) 16 professionals will have appeared before the committee backing a ban, and just one will have appeared opposing it.
“This seems disproportionate when you consider that 90% of responses to the committee’s consultation were opposed to the Bill.
“If the committee casts aside the views of the public altogether, what does that say to them? It sends the patronising message that their views don’t matter.”
Recent media coverage:
STV: ‘Enormous’ public opposition to smacking ban, group claims
Daily Mail: Parents revolt over law to ban smacking
The Times: Scotland’s proposed smacking ban is backed by only 11% of the public
ITV: Smacking ban unwarranted and unworkable, say campaigners
Herald Scotland: Kevin Mckenna: Smacking is not child abuse and calling it that is an affront
The Times: Dr Stuart Waiton: Politicians are wildly out of touch on smacking ban
WHAT THEY SAID ::: EXTRACTS FROM SUBMISSIONS
QUOTES FROM PARENTS
RACHEL MACDONALD “I am a loving mum of a big family. I am fully committed to doing what is best for my children and raising them to be good, honest, hard-working and loving citizens of our country. I do not support the proposals of this bill and I am shocked that the Scottish government is confusing the necessary chastisement sometimes needed when disciplining children with ‘assault’.”
ELIZABETH BOGUE “This Bill tramples on parent’s rights. It basically eradicates some of the most fundamental family and privacy rights there are. You might as well say that the children belong to the government, and the parents are just nannies.”
KIRSTEEN ADAMS “For the majority of loving parents out there, we are just trying to do our best in an often very challenging world. We are our own toughest critics. Therefore, why do we, as a democratic, non-totalitarian nation, assume that loving, well-meaning parents don’t know what is best for their own children?”
QUOTES FROM PROFESSIONALS
DAVID DRAIN “As well as a Father, I am also a Degree qualified professional in the voluntary sector, employed for the past 9 years in my role of Specialist Youth Advisor for a nationwide charity dedicated to supporting families impacted by a neurodegenerative disease. As you would expect I have a thorough understanding of Child Protection and Neglect issues as well as robust practice experience of utilising the GIRFEC approach… I am firmly opposed to the passing of this Bill. In my view adequate legislation already exists which balances protection for children with the right of citizens to a private and family life.”
ANONYMOUS “I am a married mother of three children ages 4, 7 and 9 years old. I was children’s social worker for 12 years working in child protection and adoption. I have also been an independent Foster care reviewing officer for two years for a well-known private Fostering Agency. My main job however is being a housewife and a mum to my three children. I have serious concerns about the legitimacy of the Scottish government getting involved in the ordinary correction and discipline of children in the home. Smacking is not child abuse and to argue that it is makes a mockery of what the abuse of children actually is.”
HELENA BRYCE “As a retired senior social worker with experience of investigating child abuse, reasonable chastisement is very different from assault and abuse. Caring parents could well find themselves suddenly criminalised.”
AGNES BROUGH (teacher and youth worker): “…the outcome of enforcing such a ban would be to completely overload already busy police and social services departments. Is every parent who smacks the bottom of their child to be questioned and charged? Will every smacked child be taken into protective custody? Meanwhile, children who are genuinely suffering harm –through neglect or unreasonable chastisement –will fail to receive the attention they require.”
QUOTES FROM POLICE OFFICERS (ANONYMOUS)
ANONYMOUS “As a serving Police Officer, we are already working hard to protect children with current legislation and introducing this bill will overwhelm police and social workers with agencies having to submit more trivial reports. I believe this use of resources will cause real cases of child abuse to be missed.”
ANONYMOUS “I am a police officer with Police Scotland, and have 29 years’ experience, mainly as a detective. I have spent the last 10 years working in Child Protection departments as a Detective Sergeant, and therefore have a significant amount of operational experience in relation to the nature and investigation of child protection concerns. I have worked within the Public Protection Unit in the Edinburgh division, and for the past three years I have worked in the National Child Abuse Investigation Unit. It’s fair to say that I have dedicated a significant proportion of my life to protecting children from abuse, and am passionate about continuing that. As a starting point, it’s probably important to stress that in all this time, I have never come across a case where I have felt the law as it stands is inadequate for any investigation into child abuse. Conversations with similarly experienced detectives suggests this is a universal view. I have found no appetite amongst my operational colleagues for any legislative changes.”
FINNIE BILL ::: ANALYSIS OF PUBLIC SUBMISSIONS
89% OF SUBMISSIONS AGAINST, 11% FOR
There were 437 submissions to the EHRiC’s consultation on John Finnie’s Bill. A total of 387 submissions (89%) were opposed, whilst 48 submissions (11%) were in favour.
97% OF INDIVIDUALS AGAINST, 3% FOR
There were 390 submissions by members of the public. Of this number, 378 (97%) were opposed to the Bill and 11 (3%) were in favour.
PARENTS OVERWHELMINGLY AGAINST
A significant number of respondents (101) stated that they are parents. A total of 99 parents were against the proposal, one was for it, and one didn’t come down either way.
Two of the submissions were neither for nor against the proposal.