PARENTS in Scotland risk being "caught unawares" when a smacking ban comes into force next month, campaigners have said. 

Be Reasonable Scotland warned there is a lack of public awareness ahead of the change. 

It said just £20,000 has been set aside for publicity in Scotland, while ministers in Wales ringfenced almost £2,759,000 to raise awareness of equivalent legislation. 

A Scottish Government letter to a local authority in June, released under Freedom of Information, said ministers “are not planning a national marketing campaign”. 

It said awareness-raising could be achieved by other means, including circulars to different organisations, a factsheet aimed at parents, a new page on the Scottish Government website and communications activity.

The physical punishment and discipline of children, including smacking and slapping, will be banned from November 7.

In October last year, SNP children’s minister Maree Todd said £20,000 was “absolutely” enough to publicise the change.

Dr Ashley Frawley, a sociologist and spokeswoman for the Be Reasonable campaign, said: “There’s a strong argument that the Scottish Government has failed in its duty to raise public awareness about the smacking ban. 

"With just over a month to go until the ban is implemented, nothing has been done to tell families what it means. 

"The only resource that comes close to telling the truth is an obscure webpage tucked on the site.

“Unlike other cultural changes such as the smoking ban, there has been no marketing to bring the public up to speed. 

"Many parents will simply be caught unawares. 

"The situation has been exacerbated by the coronavirus crisis which has left parents disconnected from the usual channels of communication – schools, nurseries and clubs, where discussions over parenting often take place."

Guidance on the Scottish Government's website 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 spokeswoman said: “This important legislation gives children the same legal protection from assault as adults – something backed by an overwhelming majority of public opinion

"We have published information on our website about the Act, and have worked with stakeholders to share advice about this change with a wide audience.

“In line with our commitment to support parents as part of our work on this Act, we have also published information about positive parenting techniques on ParentClub. 

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