SNP must bow to growing pressure to end physical punishment 

I quizzed the SNP Government on whether it would allow its MSPs a free vote on ending the defence of “justifiable assault” and give children equal protection from violence.

Ministers have repeatedly ruled out legislating to remove this defence, ignoring calls from the UN, police officers, social workers and many charities.

However, the children’s minister today refused to say whether the SNP Government would allow members to make up their own minds in the event that a change is sought through an amendment to primary legislation or a members’ bill.

We’re now one of only four countries in the Council of Europe that have yet to move to abolish this archaic defence in its entirety. We’ve banned justifiable assault as a defence when the victims are women or servants. Surely it is time for the government to demonstrate the same concern for children? 

The Minister told us that legislation on this matter is not the way to move forward, yet the experience from almost every other country across Europe shows that legislation gives parents the freedom to discipline their children appropriately, while sending the message that it is unacceptable to use violence. 

The Minister would not even confirm that SNP MSPs would be given a free vote on this issue, raising the spectre of Tory and SNP MSPs voting to retain a Victorian sounding punishment that has not only been proven ineffective but roundly condemned by charities, independent experts, professionals on the ground and the UN.

The current law normalises physical violence, damaging children’s wellbeing  and increasing problems such as aggression and anxiety which can continue into adulthood.

I’m appalled that the government think that children should have less right to protection from violence than adults living in the same household. Until we catch up with European neighbours and honour our obligations to the UN convention on the rights of the child we shall forever fail in our ambition to make Scotland the best place in the world to grow up.

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