A SMACKING ban in Scotland moved a step closer to becoming law after a majority of MSPs on a Holyrood committee supported the policy.

Plans to make smacking a child illegal were backed by five of the seven MSPs on the Equalities and Human Rights Committee at its first stage towards becoming law. The Bill would remove the defence of justifiable assault in Scots law, which allows parents to use physical punishment on children.

It would be “a watershed moment in Scots law and in changing Scotland’s culture”, according to committee convener Ruth Maguire.

She said: “It’s over three decades since all physical punishment was ended in classrooms, and it’s now time to end it at home as well. This law will ensure our children are legally protected from assault in the same way as adults. This Bill has a very clear message about what is acceptable to parents, public services, and children.

“The majority of our committee members believe this move will change Scotland for the better.”

However, the two Conservative MSPs who opposed the plans, Oliver Mundell and Annie Wells, said “it will not stop the serious and pernicious child abuse” and warned that it could stretch police resources and criminalise parents.

In their written dissent of the proposed legislation, they described it as “a heavy-handed approach” and “a distraction from our overriding responsibility to support parents and families rather than seek to punish them”.

Green MSP John Finnie, who proposed the Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Bill, said he was “delighted” that the committee endorsed the general principles in its stage one report, while Matt Forde, national head of service for NSPCC Scotland said “rectifying this unfair legal loophole is a common-sense step”.