Mary Glasgow says MSPs have the chance to take a momentous step by approving new legislation aimed at giving equal protection to children
On Thursday of next week (October 3), MSPs have the opportunity to make history. Scotland is set to become the first country in the UK to end physical punishment of children, if MSPs vote in favour of Green MSP John Finnie’s Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Bill.
Across Scotland children, young people, parents, civic organisations, and professionals, including the police, social work, teachers and paediatricians are urging every political party in Scotland to support this change.
At the start of this month members of the Scottish Youth Parliament (SYP) sent video messages to MSPs telling them it was the right time to #StopKidsBeingHit. Over 80% of over 72,000 young people in Scotland agree that all physical assault against children should be illegal, according to the SYP manifesto Lead the Way and parents from Kirkwall to Innerleithen have signed our Children 1st petition to show their support for this change. Research published earlier this year, involving parents in Glasgow, by health visitor Christopher Sweeney shows that parents don’t think physical punishment is effective or necessary and they want to see the law clarified.
Led by the Faculty of Public Health, 15 health bodies and charities sent a letter to the leaders of each of Scotland’s political parties earlier this week asking them to act on the evidence and deliver a “better future for families.” Their letter reiterated the findings of the 2015 Equally Protected Research? commissioned by Children 1st, Barnardo’s Scotland, NSPCC Scotland and the Children and Young People’s Commissioner which spurred politicians and society into action by demonstrating beyond doubt that physical punishment doesn’t work and can cause long-term harm. In the last four years the international evidence that physical punishment has the potential to damage children’s wellbeing and family relationships and is linked to poorer outcomes in childhood and adulthood has grown even further.
Our politicians talk a lot about how they want the best for Scotland’s children, to improve outcomes and change lives. Next week they have a chance to take a momentous step towards fulfilling this ambition. By voting for John Finnie’s bill, MSPs will place Scotland among the vast majority of European countries who have already ended all forms of physical punishment against children and make us the 58th country in the world to end “smacking.”
MSPs will show that, like us, they believe that assault can never be “justified,” especially against some our most youngest and vulnerable members. The removal of the legal defence of ‘justifiable assault’ and the public discussion about what we now know to be the impact of physical punishment will herald the beginning of a culture change whereby families are provided with the most accurate and up to date information about the parenting choices they make.
In the words of one of the people who signed the petition to support the bill:
“Come on Scotland! We have laws to protect everything else. Let's keep our precious wee Scottish bairns safe by outlawing physical punishment and violence of any kind.”
There’s still time to show your support for the Children (Equal Protection from Assault) Bill by signing the Children 1st petition.
Mary Glasgow is chief executive of Children 1st