Ending 'justifiable assault' will show that Scotland really is the best place in the world to grow up

Today (7th September) John Finnie MSP, Justice spokesperson for the Scottish Greens, has published his Member’s Bill to give children equal protection from assault. 

If passed the Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Bill will see Scotland join more than 50 other countries around the world in ensuring that children are protected from physical punishment. 

A public consultation last year which ran from 11 May until 4 August and received more than 650 responses with almost 75 per cent of respondents in favour of the Bill. Mr Finnie earned the right to introduce a bill in October 2017 after 31 of his MSP colleagues across all five parties represented in the Parliament offered their support for the Bill’s introduction. Mr Finnie also received the support of the Scottish Government in its Programme for Government both last year and this year. 

Supporters of the bill in the consultation included the Scottish Police Federation, Rape Crisis Scotland, Barnardo's Scotland, the Church and Society Council of the Church of Scotland, the Equality & Human Rights Commission, Children 1st, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, Scottish Women's Aid, the NSPCC and the Children and Young People's Commissioner Scotland.

Mr Finnie said:

“I am delighted to be formally lodging my bill to give children equal protection from assault in the Scottish Parliament today. Children deserve the same legal protection from assault that adults enjoy, a position that children’s rights organisations and charities have long been arguing. Substantial academic research from around the world shows that physical punishment does not work and is shown to be counterproductive; my bill aims to support parents to make positive choices. The Bill will not change the way that Police and Social Work deal with assault against children. Rather it establishes the principle that assault can never be ‘justifiable’.

“I would like to thank again all those who responded to my consultation and to my colleagues for lending me their support to introduce this bill. I would also like to thank the clerks in the Scottish Parliament, civil servants across the Scottish Government and my own staff for their advice and support in drafting the bill and the associated documents. 

“I look forward to parliament examining the bill and stand ready to make the case that providing equal protection for children and ending justifiable assault will show that Scotland really is the best place in the world to grow up." 

Rev Dr Richard Frazer, convener of the Church and Society Council, said:

“The Church of Scotland welcomes the introduction of the Proposed Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Bill as an important step in ensuring that children are given the same protection as adults. It is time that we, as a society, stated clearly that physical punishment cannot be part of normal family life.”

Leading QC Janys M Scott said: 

“Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights prohibits inhuman, degrading treatment or punishment and that is an absolute – there are no exceptions. States have a positive duty of protection to children and it is right that Scotland is now addressing this.”

Professor Steve Turner, Officer for Scotland for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), said:

“I strongly believe it is not acceptable to hit a child. Physical punishment can teach a child that physical violence is part of a normal healthy lifestyle. It can increase the likelihood of that child going on to be aggressive in later life themselves, leading to a vicious cycle of physical violence, bred through generations. Physical punishment is also linked to an increase in a child’s later risk for anxiety, depression and problems with self-esteem.

"As a children’s doctor, there is nothing I want more than for children to be protected, as adults currently are, from assault. Physical punishment is counterproductive and cruel so the Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Bill is very much welcome. With this bill, we have the opportunity to be leaders in child protection, and to show our children the respect they deserve. I now call on our neighbours in England and Northern Ireland to catch up, follow Scotland’s lead, the Welsh Government has committed to do likewise, and provide all children, regardless of where they live in the UK, with the same level of protection.”