CHILDREN do not have rights and moves to ban smacking are patronising and elitist, an academic has insisted.

Dr Stuart Waiton, a senior lecturer at Abertay University, accused MSPs of failing to listen to public opinion.

He argued criminalising all smacking would “logically” lead to other forms of discipline, such as grounding, being outlawed.

His comments came as Holyrood’s Equalities and Human Rights Committee examines the Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Bill.

Giving evidence to MSPs, Dr Waiton said the idea of children’s rights was “a bit of a nonsense concept”, and insisted those who viewed smacking a child on the hand as a form of violence were “living on another planet”.

He said: “Children don’t have rights. They don’t have the same framework of rights as adults. They have protections, and essentially when we talk about children’s rights, what we are really talking about is the right of professionals to make decisions on their behalf.

“So it’s a confused concept. It goes against the framework of how we have historically thought about rights in terms of freedoms."

He added: “You are undermining the autonomy of loving parents to decide how to raise their children with a sense of privacy and also a sense of support from society.

“And in the process you are degrading something which is done as a form of discipline that should not be understood as a form of violence.”

He insisted children and adults should be treated differently, adding: “We would not expect to ground our partners – refuse to let them leave the house.

“That would be seen as a criminal offence, whereas we ground our children – or perhaps in a few years’ time, you will be making that criminal as well.”

He later continued: “I would like to ask how you can differentiate the upset a child feels at being grounded for a week, for example, compared to having their bottom or hand smacked.

“Because I cannot see how, in the future, if you’re going to be logically consistent, you will not eventually say that that should be banned as well.

“Because the ‘level of vulnerability’ that you understand children to have is so high, and their lack of resilience is so profound, that I can’t see how this can’t eventually in five, ten years’ time, end up problematising almost any form of discipline whatsoever.”

Earlier, Dr Waiton told MSPs the Bill was “tragic and depressing” and “yet another one which appears to represent the aloof, elitist nature of politics and professional life, that treats parents in a very patronising and degraded way, uses all sorts of weird, legalistic talk about violence, equating children with adults, that makes no sense at all to ordinary people, and criminalises parents despite, again, people trying to claim that it doesn’t”.

He added: “People talk about all the evidence proves that any level of smacking children damages them. That’s absolutely untrue and the opposite of the truth.

“But I presume I’m just wasting my time because this Bill is already passed.”

The academic, who was the only one of eight witnesses to speak out against the legislation, argued banning smacking risked serious abuse cases getting lost in a “sea of complaints”.

But Diego Quiroz, policy officer at the Scottish Human Rights Commission, said it was “shocking” to argue children don’t have rights, and compared it to treating them like property “or as wives were treated a century ago, or slaves even”.

Dr Waiton said this characterisation of his argument was “quite despicable”.

Meanwhile, Professor Jane Callaghan, director of child wellbeing and protection at the University of Stirling, argued smacking does not have a place in a civilised culture.

Public health researcher Dr Anja Heilmann said 54 countries around the world have now banned physical punishment.

She said the UK was one of only three countries in the EU not to have outlawed the practice, while there is no evidence prosecutions have increased as a result of new laws elsewhere.