MINISTERS have come under increased pressure to ban the smacking of children after Scotland's solicitors' body supported a law change, saying physical chastisement was "both ineffective and out of step" with any understanding of children’s and human rights.

The Law Society of Scotland said that proposals to bar parents from striking children, which is unlawful in 52 countries around the world, would bring Scotland into line with its obligations under international law.

The Scottish government has said it has no plans to legislate, but said it did not support physical punishment of children.

Ian Cruickshank, convener of the Law Society's criminal law committee has said keeping the law as it is signals "that some forms of assaults against children are acceptable".

The Herald: More than half of parents smack their children, but nine out of ten doubt it works, report says

The Law Society was responding to a consultation on smacking, ahead of a proposed member's bill in the Scottish Parliament which aims to give children the same protection from assault as currently enjoyed by the rest of society.

The move by Highlands and Islands Green MSP John Finnie, a former policeman, has been backed by the children's commissioner Bruce Adamson, a number of children's charities, as well as the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents.

While most forms of physical force against a child would be unlawful under Scottish law currently, the Law Society argues it had not gone so far as to make hitting children unlawful.

Under common law in Scotland, parents can claim a defence of "justifiable assault" and "reasonable chastisement" when punishing their child. But section 51 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003 prohibits the use of an "implement" in the punishment.

"If the law in this area is changed as per the proposed bill, it will set clear boundaries as to what is acceptable when it comes to the physical punishment of children. It will also bring Scotland in line with our international obligations," said Mr Cruickshank in the Law Society consultation response.

The Herald:

"The international legal community is clear that corporal punishment is not in keeping with the present day understanding of human rights."

The United Nations urged the UK in 2015 to introduce laws to ban smacking in the home.

And a group of academics, commissioned by Scots charities, also called for a ban in Scotland after finding "compelling" evidence that the practice creates a cycle of violence that carries on into adulthood.

The solicitors' professional body said that removing the common law defence would bring "greater clarity in the law by eliminating any need to interpret or define ‘reasonableness’ in the context of a physical assault on a child and provide children with the same protection under the law as adults".

"The Society understands that the intent of the proposed bill is not to criminalise parents (or others) but rather to help clearly define the limits of acceptable behaviour and to extend the same limits of acceptable behaviour to all people, regardless of age," said Mr Cruickshank.

The Herald:

"This is based on an understanding that the culture in Scotland has changed over time and that the physical chastisement of children is increasingly understood to be both ineffective and out of step with our understanding of children’s rights."

In April, Scotland's outgoing children's commissioner, Tam Baillie, in renewing a call for a ban on smacking children said the UK was one of only five European countries which did not fully protect children from physical punishment.

But opponents argue the change in the law would erode the rights of parents.

The Rev David Robertson, a minister in and former moderator of the Free Church of Scotland, argued the move was “completely unnecessary”.

Morag Driscoll, the Law Society’s family law committee convener, said: “The international legal community is clear that corporal punishment is not in keeping with the present day understanding of human rights.

“Scots Law has been criticised by international organisations because, although most forms of physical force used against a child are unlawful, it has not gone so far as to make all forms of physical force against children unlawful."

The Herald:

Mr Finnie, who is the Scottish Greens' justice spokesman said: "I’m pleased that the Law Society of Scotland shares my view that removing the defence of ‘justifiable assault’ from Scots law would take away the last ‘acceptable’ use of violence in the home and reinforce the message that violence is unacceptable in today’s Scotland."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The Scottish Government does not support physical punishment of children. We have no plans to introduce legislation in this area, however, as with all Members’ Bills, we will carefully consider John Finnie’s proposals.

“We continue to support positive parenting and we recognise that physical punishment can set children the wrong example and is not an effective way to teach children discipline.”