SMACKING children is a gift from God to help parents show love for their children and Holyrood must not take it away, MSPs have been warned.

The Free Church of Scotland (Continuing) will make the argument to Holyrood’s Equalities Committee when it meets in Skye later this week to discuss a legal ban on smacking.

In written evidence, the church cites several Biblical passages, including Proverbs 22: 15, which refers to the “rod of correction” driving out “foolishness” from the heart of child.

Other faith leaders are also due to given evidence in Portree on Friday.

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Proposed by Green MSP John Finnie, and backed by the SNP government, the proposed ban would end the Scots law defence of “justifiable assault” for parents and carers who physically punish children short of using a blow to the head, shaking, or “an implement”.

Critics say it is hugely unpopular with the public and would criminalise parents. There have also been concerns that it could affect certain religious groups more.

In its advance submission, the Presbytery of the Outer Hebrides of the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing) said it was staunchly against a ban.

It said: “Reasonable chastisement, in the form of a mild physical punishment such as a smack, is one of the means belonging to parents whereby they are able to discipline their children when they are disobedient, out of love for them and for their good.

“It is a means which has been given to them by God (see e.g. Proverbs 22:15; Hebrews 12:9), and the state has no right to remove it from them.

“The absence of proper discipline in the home and in the school has been responsible in part for the lack of respect for authority in society generally.”

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It said a ban would turn loving parents, including members of its own congregations, “into convicts”.

It said Holyrood ought to be tackling the harm done to children by “family breakdown, which is fuelled by the rise in cohabitation and... easy divorce”, as well as “sexual immorality and other harmful behaviours”.

The church’s Rev Richard Ross will give evidence in person on the matter.

In its evidence, the Church of Scotland cited the Bible to defend a ban.

It said: “In Mark 10, Jesus welcomed children being brought for blessing, even when adults objected, and rebuked those who would have prevented this from happening. Later in the gospels Jesus affirms that the Kingdom of God belongs to children.

“The Church believes that the resort to violence should cease to be acceptable as our society comes to understand its negative impact. It is a positive shift away from the idea that violence is acceptable in the home, and a recognition of non-violent forms of parents and their effectiveness.”

The Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Bill is also backed by Quakers and the Humanist Society, but opposed by the Christian Institute and Evangelical Alliance.

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Mr Finnie said: “My Bill will bring Scotland into line with international best practice, and help us take another step toward making Scotland the best country for children to grow up in.

“Given the indisputable evidence that physical punishment can be harmful to children, I’m not surprised that all the credible witnesses support my proposal.”