Campaigners are stepping up efforts to fight the proposed Scottish Government ban on smacking.

And they say nothing has changed since a previous attempt at legislation was dropped in 2002.

At that time MSPs said the ban was unworkable and considered existing common law provisions dealt with the subject.

The SNP, under the leadership of John Swinney at the time, opposed the scheme.

Then education spokesman Michael Russell (now the Scottish Government’s Brexit minister) hailed the axing of the legislation as “a victory for common sense”.

And former MSP Duncan Hamilton, a QC now advising Alex Salmond on his Judicial Review against the Scottish Government and who was a member of the Justice 2 Committee at the time it condemned the ban, said:

“Why does the Executive view the direction of parental attitudes as a matter for legislation and statute? Why we are bothering with the bill, given that we have a common-law position. We asked which of the provisions in the bill are not already covered by common law, and we could not find any.”

Under existing Scottish law, any punishment that is immoderate or excessive is “unjustifiable” and therefore against the law – including shaking and the use of an implement. Parents found guilty of assault can be imprisoned for up to five years and face an unlimited fine.

However, parents may ‘reasonably chastise’ their own children.

A spokesperson for Be Reasonable Scotland, the campaign group spearheading opposition to the ban said:

“The SNP was in the vanguard of opposition in 2002 when it was branded unworkable.

“Now they’ve become cheerleaders for proposals which will criminalise parents for lovingly chastising their children with a simple tap on the hand.

“Nothing has changed since the last time. The ban is still unpopular as opinion polls have shown with just shy of 75 per cent against any ban.

“It was found to be unworkable then and it’s unworkable now.

“In May last year the First Minister’s spokesperson said: ‘We have no plans to introduce legislation in the area’.

“Then all of a sudden in October, just as the Government scrambled around desperate to secure votes to pass its Budget, there was a spectacular U-turn and a Bill sponsored by Green MSP John Finnie suddenly found favour.

“The Finnie consultation process was carried out during the summer school holidays. At the time the Scottish Government was flatly denying it would support the bill and, unsurprisingly, the consultation was ignored by the public.

“It had just 660 responses. That’s equivalent to about 0.11% of Scottish households with dependent children. That’s no mandate for criminalising thousands of ordinary loving parents. Proper consultation is needed.

“Back In 2002 Jim Wallace, then Justice Minister in the Lab-Lib Dem coalition dropped the proposals saying: ‘There was no convincing evidence that the proposals would reduce harm to children to such an extent as to justify a blanket provision of this kind’.

A cabinet paper by Wallace said the committee was concerned ‘whether it is oppressive to parents or even a good way to protect children’ and there was a ‘risk that good parents will be liable to investigation and prosecution’.

The worries that legislation would make it harder to stop genuine abuse were reflected in a recent poll by ComRes. It found 78% are concerned that a smacking ban might flood police and social workers with trivial cases which mean they struggle to stop serious abusers.

The Be Reasonable spokesperson said:
“The sentiments expressed in 2002 reverberate through the years and remain valid and relevant today.”