The final series of the TV show Big Brother may just have finished - but Big Brother hasn't gone away. Last week, Nicola Sturgeon described herself as the 'chief corporate parent', or as she prefers it, 'chief mammy'. While doubtless intended to be endearing, Sturgeon's admission highlights a growing trend of government interference in family life. Recent examples of this are the proposed Named Person scheme (ruled illegal by the Supreme Court in 2016), government efforts to stand between parents and their young children on the issue of gender self-identification, and Scottish Government support for a bill by Green MSP John Finnie to ban smacking.
This latest effort is despite the fact that 74% of Scots say that smacking should not be a criminal offence (though the Church of Scotland disagrees). While the Government claims a connection between smacking and aggressive behaviour in adolescence and adulthood, there is no evidential basis for such an assertion. In fact, the author of the bill admits to smacking his own children and says they turned out to be 'well-rounded'!
Not only does the proposed bill ignore both the public and the evidence, its supporters consistently misrepresent the current law by claiming that the new legislation is about protecting children from assault. In actual fact, any smack that leaves more than a temporary reddening of the skin is already illegal, as are smacks aimed at the head. The present law ensures that parents will not be prosecuted for using light, reasonable discipline. The new legislation would turn good parents into criminals for simply tapping their kids on the back of the hand or pulling them away from the side of the road. Meanwhile, police and social workers will be flooded with trivial cases, leaving them struggling to stop genuine child abuse.
The Government is also trying to rewrite history in an attempt to force through the bill, claiming to have 'long opposed the physical punishment of children', when as recently as 2017 Ministers said they did not believe a ban was 'appropriate', while similar legislation was opposed by the SNP in 2002.
Those who perhaps breathe a sigh of relief that Christianity doesn't dictate morals as it once did may just be starting to worry about what it's been replaced with. A God-sized vacuum has been left behind, which the Government is all too happy to try and fill.
Published in the Stranraer and Wigtownshire Free Press, 8th November 2018