New Legislation in Scotland introduces Smacking Ban

The Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Act 2019 will become law on 7th November 2020. This means that all forms of physical punishment of children will be against the law in Scotland from that date and Scotland will be the first part of the UK to pass a law like this.

Previously, the defence of “reasonable chastisement” was available to those accused of assaulting a child in their care.

The Act does not introduce a new offence – it removes a defence to the existing offence of assault.

The change has been made because of the body of evidence showing that physical punishment is not in the best interests of children. Physical punishment is harmful and has proven to be ineffective.

This does not mean that you cannot lay a hand on your child to, for example, protect them from running into the road. If you are preventing your child from coming to harm you are protecting them, however if you were to smack your child afterwards, for running into that busy road, you are physically punishing them and could be found guilty of assault.

The Act also requires the Scottish Ministers to take steps to promote public awareness and understanding about the defence being removed. However, the lack of public awareness has been criticised. There is concern that parents will be caught unaware, particularly considering the level of disconnect many parents are feeling as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. Parents are not congregating at schools or nurseries, as they once would, where discussions about parenting would often take place.

The Scottish Government has allocated £20,000 for an awareness-raising push but has confirmed it is not planning any mass publicity campaign – which is concerning given it is a change which people of all ages, young children through to grandparents, should be aware of.

It can be challenging being a parent or carer, particularly during the pandemic.

Our highly experienced and well-respected team have expertise in all areas of family law and are on-hand to guide you through, what can often be a difficult time, sensitively and logically to ensure you and your family’s needs are met. We understand that everyone’s circumstances are different and our solicitors will give practical advice on the options available to you and how best to resolve your situation.

The Family Law Department consists of Claire Bamber (Partner), Billie Smith (Associate) and Sandi Kerr (Paralegal).

You may also find help on the Scottish Government Parent Club website ( and on their Family Support Directory (

If talking to someone might help, you can call Children 1st Parentline on 0800 028 2233 (which is free). You could also chat to someone online at