SCOTLAND has become the first country in the UK to ban smacking.

The new legislation will effectively give children the same protection from assault as adults and removes the defence of “reasonable chastisement” or “justifiable assault”.

Previously this meant parents could smack their child on the body but not on the head.

The Bill was brought to Holyrood by Green MSP, and former policeman, John Finnie.

Though he was backed by his colleagues, the Government, Labour and the LibDems, there was no love for the bill from the Scottish Tories.

Oliver Mundell said the new law “could unnecessarily criminalise good parents”.

He added: “I believe violence against children is wrong. However, that is not the issue before us today.

“Today we are being asked to pass into law primary legislation that is imprecise and suboptimal.

“I don’t think that it’s foreseeable at all for parents what circumstances they could find themselves entangled with the criminal justice system.”

But MSPs rejected his argument 84 to 29.

Finnie said he was delighted at the “historic and courageous” decision taken by Holyrood.

“The leadership shown by MSPs will send a strong message that violence is never acceptable in any setting, and that our children deserve at least the same legal protections that adults enjoy.

“Physical punishment has no place in 21st century Scotland. The international evidence tells us that it can have serious impacts on children, and that it is not effective. As I have progressed this campaign over the last three years, it has become clear just how many people believed that striking a child was already outlawed.

“I am extremely proud to have brought forward the legislation that will enhance children’s rights in Scotland and believe that today we have taken a huge step toward making Scotland the best country in the world for children to grow up in.”

Children’s Minister Maree Todd welcomed the legislation: “I’m very pleased that Parliament has now voted to ensure that children, without exception, have the same protection from assault as adults.

“In removing an outdated provision that has no place in a modern Scotland, we are reaffirming we want this country to be the best place in the world for children to grow up so that they feel loved, safe, respected and can realise their full potential.

“We will now work in partnership with organisations including children’s charities, Social Work Scotland and Police Scotland to raise awareness of the Bill and build on the existing support we offer to children and families.”

Finnie’s Bill was overwhelmingly supported by charities. Joanna Barrett, policy and public affairs officer for NSPCC Scotland, said it was a “common sense move that closes an archaic loophole and ensures that, finally, children in Scotland will have the same protection from assault as adults”.

Morag Driscoll, from the Law Society said the change was a start but said ministers would still need to do more.

She said: “The reasonable chastisement defence attracted criticism from international children’s rights organisations. However, Scotland is now sending a clear message that all forms of assault against children are unacceptable.

“Driving meaningful behavioural change requires much more than changing the law. The Scottish Government now needs to launch a comprehensive public education and awareness campaign to alert people to these changes.”

Currently parents in England and Wales face criminal charges if they hit a child so hard that it leaves a mark, or causes bruising, swelling, cuts, grazes or scratches.

However, there is legislation currently going through the Welsh Assembly that would remove the Victorian-era defence of “reasonable punishment”.