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Child welfare expert tells Holyrood committee smacking ban is “long overdue”

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A University of Stirling academic has told MSPs that a new bill to ban the smacking of children was “long overdue”.

Professor Jane Callaghan, Director of Child Wellbeing and Protection, was giving evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s equalities and human rights committee. MSPs are examining the Children (Equal Protection for Assault) Scotland Bill which would remove the defence of “justifiable assault” in Scots law, which allows parents to use physical punishment on children.

Speaking on the first day of the Holyrood committee, Professor Callaghan said: “Corporal punishment has no positive consequences and has plenty of negative ones. It’s long overdue that we end the justification of reasonable chastisement.

“The balance of evidence in psychological research, and in research on domestic abuse and other forms of family violence, suggests this is the right choice.”

Jane Callaghan

Prof Jane Callaghan, University of Stirling

The member’s bill from Green MSP John Finnie has already passed stage one of the legislative process at Parliament and is backed by the Scottish Government.

The Scottish Police Federation, Barnardo’s Scotland, the Church and Society Council of the Church of Scotland and the NSPCC, are all in support of outlawing smacking. Campaign group Be Reasonable Scotland, supported by the Christian Institute and the Family Education Trust, argues a ban will criminalise parents.

During the debate, MSPs also heard from Abertay University sociologist Dr Stuart Waiton, Diego Quiroz, policy officer at the Scottish Human Rights Commission and Dr Anja Heilmann, lead author of a report into smacking children, also spoke in support of making the practice illegal.

A public consultation on the issue last year received 650 responses, with around 75 per cent being in favour of the ban. Fifty-four countries around the world have banned physical punishment.

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