Church backs smacking ban proposals

Richard Frazer
Green MSP John Finnie, Chloe Riddell (13 months) and Rev Dr Richard Frazer

New proposals to give children equal protection from assault are not about criminalising parents, a Church of Scotland minister has said.

Rev Dr Richard Frazer, convener of the Church and Society Council, said the legislation does not seek to undermine discipline and is purely aimed at promoting non-violent forms of parenting.

The minister, who set up the Grassmarket Community Project in Edinburgh which supports some of the most vulnerable people in society, said there is evidence that the use of physical punishment is detrimental to children’s long term health and wellbeing.

Last year, the General Assembly voted in favour of calling on the Scottish Government to acknowledge the recommendations of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and remove the defence of "justifiable assault" from the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003.

The move would grant youngsters under 16 the same rights as adults.

Green MSP John Finnie launched his Private Members Bill, The Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Bill, at the Scottish Parliament today.

The Highlands and Islands representative’s proposals will now be subject to a three month public consultation.

Speaking at the launch at Holyrood, Dr Frazer, minister at Greyfriars Kirk, said: “The Church of Scotland supports the proposed Bill to offer equal protection to children.

“Whilst parents continue to have responsibility for the nurture of their children, as well as the creation of boundaries for them, we believe that the resort to violence should fade from being acceptable as we come to understand its negative impact.

“This is not about criminalising parents.

“Good parenting involves setting boundaries for children, it involves creating nurturing structures, it involves, sometimes, discipline.

“That is not what this Bill seeks to undermine at all.”

Dr Frazer said he had learned, through interacting with people at the Grassmarket Community Project, that violence in the home can lead to mental health problems, addictions and the revolving door of homelessness.

“Anything we can do to improve the opportunity for children to flourish is really important,” he added.

“This Bill, which we support very strongly, is a move in the right direction for our society.

“To move away from the idea of violence in the home and normalise different non-violent forms of parenting.”

Richard Frazer
John Finnie launches the Children (Equal Protection from Assault (Scotland Bill) at the Scottish Parliament

The Private Members Bill has the support of charities Dad’s Rock, Children 1st, One Parent Families Scotland, Barnardo’s Scotland, the Scottish Violence Reduction Unit,Social Work Scotland, NSPCC Scotland and the Children and Young People’s Commissioner.