Call For Scottish Smacking Ban To Be Extended To Rest Of UK - Top news: TITLE

Nicola Sturgeon's administration confirmed it would back a bill put forward by Green MSP John Finnie to provide equal protection from assault for children in Scotland.

The Children's Commissioner for England and the NSPCC say that Westminster should now follow suit and extend the ban to England and other parts of the UK it has authority over.

Children's Commissioner Anne Longfield said: "The current legislation in England which grants an exemption from the law on common assault to allow the physical punishment of children is outdated.

"It should be updated to reflect what the vast majority of parents believe: that hitting children is wrong and that there are better and more effective ways of disciplining children and encouraging positive behaviour."

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An NSPCC spokesperson said: "John Finnie's bill on equal protection from assault, and the Scottish Government's indication it will support it, is a welcome step on the road towards fairness and equality for children.

"The NSPCC has long campaigned for children to have the same protection against assault as adults and we strongly believe a change in the law would be a common-sense move.

"It is wrong that a defence which does not exist in a case of common assault against an adult can be used to justify striking a child."

Mr Finnie launched a consultation on a proposed bill to ban smacking in Scotland in May.

He found that almost 75% of those who responded were supportive of the bill's proposal to remove Scottish law's defence of "justifiable assault" of children, which allows parents to smack.

The UK is one of only four countries in the EU that allows physical punishment of children.

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The bill had the support of several children's charities and other groups including the NSPCC, Barnardo's, the Scottish Children's Commissioner and the Church of Scotland.

A Scottish government spokeswoman said: "Mr Finnie's proposals are not a Scottish government bill, however we will ensure the proposals become law.

"We believe physical punishment can have negative effects on children which can last long after the physical pain has died away."

Mr Finnie said: "It is especially welcome that the Scottish government has reiterated its support for my bill because there is clear evidence that the use of physical punishment is detrimental to children's long-term health and wellbeing."

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