MINISTERS have quietly toned down advice suggesting Scots dial 999 and report a crime if they see a parent smacking their child.

Official guidance published on the Scottish Government's website has been altered following criticism from campaigners. 

It now suggests calling 999 if a child or young person "is in immediate danger".

It comes ahead of a law change next month to ban the physical punishment and discipline of children, including smacking and slapping. 

Critics have warned the so-called smacking ban will turn "ordinary, decent mums and dads into criminals".

Under the headline "if you see someone physically punishing their child", guidance on the Scottish Government's website previously said "you should call 999 to report a crime in progress or if a child or young person is in immediate danger".

It now says Scots can call the police on 101 if they think a crime has been committed, or contact their local council or Crimestoppers.

It adds: "Or, as has always been the case, you can call 999 if a child or young person is in immediate danger."

The website was updated on October 13.

A spokesman for the campaign group Be Reasonable, which highlighted the original advice, accused "red-faced government officials" of quietly tweaking advice following a backlash. 

He said: "Perhaps they realised that people in Scotland are not on-board with the idea that ordinary, loving parents should be reported to the police via a 999 call for tapping a child on the bum. Unfortunately, it’s too little too late. 

"A raft of guidance has already been sent to professionals across Scotland with exactly the same phrasing.

“The Government’s mask has slipped here. For two years they’ve been at pains to stress that the smacking ban ‘isn’t about criminalisation’. 

"[SNP minister for children and young people] Maree Todd is on the record telling MSPs that the government’s ‘intention is not to criminalise parents’. 

"Yet, the guidance said very clearly that criminalising parents is precisely the outcome we should expect. 

"No wonder the government changed it – the truth of the matter isn’t a good look for them.”

The guidance explains that if a parent or carer physically punishes or disciplines their child they can be prosecuted with assault.  

Under the current law, the defence of "reasonable chastisement" may be available to them.

But the Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Act 2019 will change the law and remove the “reasonable chastisement” defence from November 7.

This will ban all forms of physical punishment against children.

The guidance adds: "The Act does not introduce a new offence. It just removes a defence to the existing offence of assault."

Similar legislation has been introduced elsewhere, including in Ireland and New Zealand.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “This important legislation gives children the same legal protections as adults – something backed by an overwhelming majority of public opinion.

"The objective of the guidance is to provide information and advice about the Act, and to support families and children with resources such as Parent Club.

“Based on experience from elsewhere, we do not expect a large number of prosecutions.”