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Published, 3 October 2019

Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Bill backed by the Scottish Parliament

The Scottish Parliament has today (3 October) voted in favour of the Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Bill, which will ensure children have the same protection from assault as adults by removing the legal defence of ‘justifiable assault’.

The international evidence could not be clearer – physical punishment has the potential to harm children and carries the risk of escalation into physical abuse.

A 2015 international report, ‘Equally Protected?', a review of the evidence commissioned by the NSPCC Scotland, Children 1st, Barnardo’s Scotland and the Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland, highlighted the negative consequences of physical punishment, including increased levels of aggression and antisocial behaviour from children and a strong detrimental effect on children’s emotional and mental health.

While this is a first in the UK, the move brings Scotland in line with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and with 57 other countries from around the world that have already voted to end the physical punishment of children.

The Bill uses the same definition of physical punishment used by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

The law change was proposed by a Member's Bill introduced by Scottish Greens MSP John Finnie.

Executive Director of CELCIS, Professor Jennifer Davidson, said:

“I am delighted that the Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Bill has been backed by the Scottish Parliament.

“Now is the time to unite collectively across Scotland and ensure children have equal protection under the law. This long-overdue legislation is not a radical proposal; rather, it has the opportunity to shape our country’s future as a place which recognises the value we place on children. It means that it is never acceptable for violence to be used against a child, and that children’s rights to protection, dignity and respect are always paramount.

“At CELCIS, we strongly support the passing of this Bill to benefit not only all children but a better future for all in Scotland.”

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