Scotland prohibits all corporal punishment of children

On 3 October 2019, the Scottish Parliament adopted the Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Act in a historic move which sees Scotland becoming the first nation in the United Kingdom to provide children with equal protection from assault.

Section 1 of the Act, which was introduced by Green MSP John Finnie, repeals section 51 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003 which had provided for ‘justifiable assault’ and abolishes the common law defence of ‘reasonable chastisement’:

(1) The rule of law, that the physical punishment of a child in the exercise of a parental right or a right derived from having charge or care of the child is justifiable and is therefore not an assault, ceases to have effect.”

Section 2 of the Act puts a duty on Scottish Ministers to take measures to raise public awareness and understanding around the effects of the new legislation. Section 1 will come into force 12 months after the Act receives Royal Assent. With this clear and explicit repeal of the defence, criminal laws against assault will apply equally to children as they do to adults, providing children with protection from all corporal punishment in every setting of their lives.

The Global Initiative welcomes the adoption of the Act which comes after years of campaigning by Scottish civil society, the Scottish Children and Young People’s Commissioner and partners all over the world. Although Scotland is the first UK nation to provide children with equal protection, Wales is expected to follow suit in the coming months. As the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child turns 30 next month, the time is overdue for the rest of the United Kingdom to catch up with Scotland, Wales and 57 states worldwide and in turn enact legislation providing children with equal protection from assault.


Further information

  • Find out more information on Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom in our detailed report
  • Find out more about the progress in Europe and Central Asia on our regional page
  • See the latest facts and figures on global progress towards prohibition on our countdown page
  • Donate here to help us end corporal punishment of children or visit our Get involved page to learn about more ways you can support the campaign