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Ewan Gurr: Smacking debate excluded the views of young people

Ewan Gurr: Smacking debate excluded the views of young people

One year ago, the Scottish Parliament voted by 84 votes to 29 to pass The Children (Equal Protection from Assault) Bill, making Scotland the first UK country to define it as a criminal offence for a parent to smack their child.

An advert released last week by the Scottish Government urges the public observing parents “physically punishing their child to call 999 to report a crime.”

Last May, Children’s Minister Maree Todd assured parliamentarians that “our intention is not to criminalise parents.”

The legislation will come into effect next month but, throughout the debate which surrounded the proposed Bill between 2017 and 2019, what astounded me most was the way in which the voices of young people and particularly those who would have had relatively recent experience of smacking were excluded.

In fact, I found it sinister that some of the very charities who often herald the amplification of children’s voices were those most opposed to their input on this particular topic of conversation.

Last week, I spoke to 19-year-old Lily Waiton from Tayport, who has relatively recent experience of smacking. She became linked to the smacking ban when accompanying her father, Dr Stuart Waiton, to parliamentary and public events where he spoke in opposition to it and pointed to his “violated” daughter.

Lily laughed when I reminded her of the hustings in Dundee where this also took place but she said: “He was right though, I am not the psychologically damaged person supporters (of the ban) wish I was.”

Lily just emerged into adulthood as the Bill was presented in 2017 and told me about her experiences.

She said: “I was only ever smacked a handful of times and I knew it was when I pushed the boundaries. It happened so infrequently I don’t think about it and certainly don’t carry any resentment or feel scarred because of it.”

Lily added: “I had a great childhood and know my parents raised me with much love and care and I honestly believe smacking helped me quickly determine between right and wrong.”

I asked Lily if she feels smacking would be appropriate were she to settle down and have a family one day.

She said: “I imagine the way I was brought up will influence the way I raise my own children.”

Lily offered a withering assessment when I asked about her perception of Scottish politics.

She said: “It is shocking how much politicians appear to push their own moral agenda.

“Their job is to represent those who elected them but it is as if they feel duty-bound to use the law to manipulate people’s behaviour.”

Since 2003, it has been unlawful to discipline a child in a manner that reddens the skin but from next month, if you are a parent who uses any physical discipline, you will be a criminal.

Lily said: “This what our politics has turned into – it is just mad.”

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