MSPs to visit Skye to hear views on ‘anti-smacking’ bill

Cunninghame South MSP Ruth Maguire convenes the Equalities committee

By Keith MacKenzie

The right of parents to smack their children will be up for debate in Portree next week when MSPs visit Skye to consider views on the subject.

The Scottish Parliament’s equalities and human rights committee are considering proposals which could stop parents in Scotland from using the defence of ‘reasonable chastisement’ if they physically punish their child.

The bill was introduced by Highland Green MSP John Finnie last September, and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said that the Scottish Government will support it.

In Skye, MSPs will meet a range of groups before holding a formal meeting with representatives of different faiths and belief systems.

The committee has already gathered views from academics, children’s groups and charities in Edinburgh.

Green MSP John Finnie wants to outlaw smacking

Those in favour of the bill argue that physical punishment can cause long term harm to children and that a change in law is needed to stimulate behaviour change.

Those against say that smacking is not the same as assault, that the current law is sufficient, and that the bill would represent unwelcome state interference in private family life.

As the law stands an attack on one person by another is an assault, whether the person attacked is a child or an adult.

However, a person charged with assault of a child can claim the defence of ‘reasonable chastisement’ or ‘justifiable assault’ when they have used physical force to discipline a child.

The bill’s supporters say the legislation does not create a new criminal offence, but will provide children with the same protection from assault as adults.

The formal committee meeting, which is open to the public to attend, will be held between 4pm and 6pm on Friday 15th March in the Fingal Centre / Arainn Fhinn, Portree.

The public are also welcome to a question and answer session with the committee from 3.15pm.

Earlier in the day, committee members will meet with schoolchildren from Bun-sgoil Ghàidhlig Phort Rìgh, Portree High, young carers and parents’ groups on the island, to hear their views on the proposals.

Ahead of the visit, committee convener Ruth Maguire said: “The physical discipline of children is an emotive topic. Those we have heard from so far have held varied and often strong opinions.

“MSPs are very interested in the evidence we are receiving during this crucial phase of the legislative process. We will be taking points of view into account before we report back to the full Parliament on the next steps.”

Ms Maguire added: “We hope that as many people as possible can make it along to watch our meeting in the Fingal Centre, and that people on Skye take the opportunity to help with the Committee’s deliberations.”

To book a ticket for the Q&A and public meeting, call 0131 248 5200, freephone 0800 092 7600, email or go online to