Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Act finally became law on November 7.


Are you aware of the change?

Whilst the Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Act was originally passed in November 2019, the essential part bringing the ban of smacking into full effect was to come 12 months later. Therefore, as of the 7 November 2020, the common law defence of reasonable chastisement to an alleged offence of violence against a child will no longer be available.

Elaine E Sutherland, a Professor of Child and Family Law at the University of Stirling has long supported this move to protect Scotland’s children from the defence she sees as a “blot on the Scottish record on children’s rights”.

Well known for her support of children’s rights, Professor Sutherland responded to the view that it hasn’t done Scotland’s generations any harm in the following terms:

“There is ample evidence of the damage caused by permitting physical punishment of children, including harm to the child’s psychological and physical wellbeing; modelling violent behaviour as acceptable; the risk of escalation; and real doubts about whether it works in terms of altering behaviour.”

We first addressed the upcoming change in our article, Don’t Raise Your Hand in Anger, which discusses the beginnings of the new law – if you missed this last year it is available at


What’s Next for Scotland’s children?

This change in law could be said to have paved the way for the development of the law relating to protecting children, which will see the incorporation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) into domestic Scot’s law very soon.

The proposed Bill bringing this into effect aims to ensure that:

  • children’s rights are respected and protected in the law in Scotland
  • public authorities are legally required to respect and protect children’s rights in all the work that they do



Quotes of Elaine E Sutherland are taken from her full article entitled “Smacking Away”, Journal of the Law Society of Scotland, 19 October 2020, October 2020 edition