The Scottish parliament voted 84 to 29 to ban all physical punishment in the country – meaning that parents won’t be able to spank their children anymore. Scotland is now the first country in the United Kingdom to make this rule, but Sweden was the first nation in the world to outlaw spanking in the private home in 1979. Member of Scottish Parliament John Finnie, who was a police officer, introduced the legislation with support from liberal counterparts and several children’s charities.
The ban was opposed by Scottish conservatives, who believe the move criminalizes good parents for reasonable chastisement of reckless or harmful behavior. But Finnie stuck to his message, explaining that spanking or slapping gives children the mistaken idea that “might is right” and that this ban sends a positive message that “violence is never acceptable in any setting.”
Defining Reasonable Chastisement
A 2015 study of child “corporal” or “physical” punishment – punishments that rely on pain or discomfort to correct bad behavior – showed that more people spanked their kids in the United Kingdom than other in western nations like the United States and Canada.
For years, Scottish courts have the final say in deciding if “reasonable chastisement” was used by a parent or guardian. In most cases, the court reviews the nature of the actions that resulted in the spanking, the duration of the punishment, and the age of the child. In most cases, children in front of the courts were from ages three to seven. Parents – until now – have been free to spank their children on the body, but slaps or strikes to the head, shaking, and the uses of belts or wooden spoons were considered assault. Smacking or spanking of children was already illegal in schools and educational settings.
The use of physical punishment has declined over the years because public opinion of the best ways to correct a misbehaving child has changed. Still, the new law in Scotland is being discussed across the globe, and the world waits to see if other nations follow suit or will give allow parents to use whatever punishments they deem necessary.