Social Justice

Spare the rod and spoil the child?

Scotland’s ban on smacking children deemed a Human Right

According to section 58 of the Children Act 2004, it is illegal for a parent or carer to smack their own child, except where it amounts to “reasonable punishment”. But a new bill introduced by Scottish Greens and backed by Scottish Nationals could come into effect allowing lawful prosecution on all forms of physical punishment, giving children the same rights as an adult. A vote will be held in the Scottish parliament at some point next year and the bill is expected to pass and become law. The UK is one of only four nations in Europe where it was still legal to hit a child, something that is now been called into question by the Children’s Commissioners; who want to see the ban spread to the remaining constituent parts.

The ban proposal has been met with fierce hostility as many parents across the UK feel it’s not the government’s position to tell them how to discipline their children, considering it as an abuse of power. Whilst others have shown support for the notion including Scottish Labour, the party’s education spokesman, Iain Gray, said: “Labour MSPs have discussed the bill and do believe that the time has come to provide children with the same protection as adults under the law.”

But what is unclear is how this bill will be enforced. MEP Daniel Hannan pointed out that it’s going to be almost impossible to implement, as social workers share their concerns about detecting the abuse and the lack of systems currently in place for carrying cases to successful prosecutions. What is also unclear is if parents will be prosecuted for very minor physical punishment such as a tap on the bottom. Scottish Labour MP Kezia Dugdale said she didn’t believe that parents would be prosecuted for a light tap- whilst many in Scotland believe that this ban is being brought in to tackle all forms of physical punishment, light tap- or otherwise.