A group of academics, parenting experts and campaigners have written an open letter to MSPs expressing their “deep concern” over the proposed smacking ban in Scotland.

The move comes ahead of a Holyrood debate on the matter this week.

The hard-hitting letter claims supporters of the ban have been “dishonest’” in the discourse surrounding the debate since the Bill was presented to the Scottish Parliament.

And it also states that research on the issue of smacking has been “misinterpreted or misused” by those spearheading calls for the ban as they “further their own political agenda”.

The co-signatories include Professor Tommy MacKay, consultant child psychologist, former president of the British Psychological Society; Joy Knight, former National Chair, Children’s Panel Advisory Committee; Dr Simon Knight, Senior Community Work Practitioner, Glasgow; Dr Penny Lewis, Parent Campaigner, Dundee; Professor Ellie Lee, Director, Centre for Parenting Culture Studies, University of Kent; And Dr Ashley Frawley, senior lecturer in social policy, Swansea University.

On Tuesday MSPs will participate in the Stage 1 debate of the Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Bill which has been promoted by Green MSP and former police officer John Finnie, who has admitted to smacking his own children when they were young.

The debate on Tuesday (May 28) comes after the Equalities and Human Rights Committee expressed majority support for the legislation.

But in their letter, the opponents of the Bill state:

“We are deeply concerned by legislation before the Scottish Parliament to remove the defence of reasonable chastisement and introduce a ‘smacking ban’.

“It is unnecessary, will do nothing to help vulnerable children, and will instead cause traumatic intervention in good families.

“The discourse around smacking is dishonest. It conflates ‘hitting’ and violence with smacking. But violence against children is already outlawed under current legislation. The reasonable chastisement defence merely allows a caring parent to use a light tap on the hand or bottom without being charged with an assault.

“A careful examination of the evidence does not find that light, infrequent physical discipline is harmful to children. Major studies on smacking are often misinterpreted or misused by academics seeking to further their own political agenda.

“Removing the defence will leave loving parents open to police cautions and even criminal convictions for behaviour which is, by definition, ‘reasonable’. The stress this would bring to parents and children far outweighs any perceived benefits.

“A smacking ban would also make the work of the police and social services more difficult by bringing hundreds of good parents under the remit of child protection agencies, impeding efforts to identify actual abuse.

“The vast majority of Scots do not want to see smacking criminalised, regardless of their views on smacking as a parenting technique.

“We urge MSPs to oppose this legislation when it is debated.”

The campaign to maintain the existing law on smacking is being driven by Be Reasonable Scotland.

They commissioned an opinion poll which showed the vast majority of Scots don’t support the ban.

In the poll three quarters opposed criminalising parents for smacking and said parents should decide on smacking, not the State.

Two-thirds say it is sometimes necessary to smack a naughty child.