I CONSIDER the phrase, “a ban on smacking”, and a flurry of embarrassed, scattered memories arise. Memories of being smacked, smacking, watching smacking, intervening to stop it.

To be clear: I fully support the law passed on Thursday in Holyrood, removing the defence of “reasonable chastisement” of children, and aimed at the harmonisation of Scottish law with international human rights standards.

As in sectarian speech, child protection, fracking, smoking and alcohol pricing, our Scottish Parliamentarians attempt to lead the ethical development of our society, through both public education and evidence-based law. As a progressive person, I embrace their ambition.

But I’d be a liar to say that outlawing the smacking of children is a simple matter for me.

The National: The smacking ban is a sign of how progressive Scotland is trying to beThe smacking ban is a sign of how progressive Scotland is trying to be

My own memories of this phenomenon are turbulent and compromised. My sympathies, empathies and antipathies shoot everywhere. And you know what?

I bet I’m not alone here.

As to being smacked: yeah. I’m 55, and my father was of a generation for whom “stress” – now the topic de jour – was just an ordinary background hum. For John, the strains of discrimination as a member of an Irish Catholic family in the West of Scotland were acute. Even more extreme were his experiences as a sniped-at British soldier, in the immediate post-war chaos of Berlin.

So what about all those summary thumps to the head, when his preciously-established authority was challenged by his mouthy son? Nowadays, I deeply understand, and deeply forgive.

But I’m not one of those who says, “it made me the man I am”. In fact, it made me try to be the opposite of the man presented to me by this brooding, simmering exemplar.

I’ve spent 30 years trying to write songs about gentler, more expansive, more considerate men. Should I thank my hands-raised dad for giving me a deep seam of artistic inspiration? I’m not sure.

At times, I could have done without the flashes of anger, the sense of unanswerable outrage and unfairness, running like an electric current through my life.

As for the smacking: yeah, also.

A few times. Burned into the synapses.

READ MORE: This is why I’m uneasy about Holyrood’s ‘ban on smacking’

The roulette of conception was lucky for me, in that we produced two daughters. So I had an inherent distance from the model of male-to-male parenting laid down for me. Add to that my explicit distancing from the past, and things were set to go well. And they generally did. In an ocean of Lego play, Barbie head transplantations and endless felt-tip universes drawn on giant sheets of paper, there are only a few volcanic islands of physical fury I can consciously remember.

Much of the testimony I’ve been reading about concurs with my own memory. The slap, the shake or the seizing is let loose, usually at a peak of one’s own adult sense of losing control of your own life.

It’s then followed by how terrible your child’s face and response makes you feel. A chasm opens up between your beloved and you. It’s the opposite of everything you’ve tried to be a parent for. Terrible, regrettable. Hopefully redeemable.

But then we come to watching the slapping, and then intervening to prevent it. I accept the cultural and behavioural effect a law like this is intended to have. By making “reasonable chastisement” of children unlawful, the parents of Scotland have to think of other ways to discipline, sanction and character-form their child.

Yet my greatest worry is that we presume this is too easily done; that we don’t match up fear of prosecution with an extensive programme of education and assistance for subtler methods.

Particularly when so many Scottish parents will be operating on software, inescapably preloaded onto them, which runs exactly counter to the spirit of this law.

For years, I would watch parents walloping their pucker-faced kids along train platforms and shopping malls. Until recently, the secret contract established between parents was: You don’t intervene in someone else’s family grief. You can’t stand in their shoes. You don’t know what stresses they are under.

Then I started to intervene, instinctually. One time a father nearly laid me out for asking, “why don’t you just talk to your kid?”

But in the several times it’s happened, the usual subjects are a somewhat bedraggled mum, hauling two or three children and a collection of bulging shopping bags, struggling home on public transport or through the checkout lines.

You don’t need to be a paid-up social scientist to see the economic and social stresses the mother is evidently under. And it’s no surprise when her own reaction is furious, contemptuous, point-blank defensive. I can control nothing else – but I can control my children. And who are you to say otherwise?

Neither of us win in this situation. It’s a very good argument for a public law, clearly declared, that doesn’t just prohibit but inhibits assaults on children. But I predict we will be in for a somewhat rough ride, requiring clear heads and considerable patience, before this law properly beds in.

Some of my social media correspondents correctly place this law in a grander narrative – one of Scotland as “the best place in the world” to bring up children.

“The more that GIRFEC [Getting It Right For Every Child] and CfE [Curriculum for Excellence] are embedded in our communities”, wrote the educationalist Mark Sheridan, “the more parenting shifts to partnership with children and not dominance. Scotland needs to be a beacon of light for the rights of the child.”

All this devoutly to be pursued, I answered. But I’m trying to point to the depth of trauma and conditioning that exists, like a poisoned water-table, in Scottish emotional life. We need the law and aspiration, of course. But we need the arm round the shoulder too.

And we need a higher and more solid foundation to stand on, as well, to support happier and gentler parenting. The works of Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson, particularly their books The Spirit Level and The Inner Level, show just how much psychological distress – and even cognitive impairment – is caused by the extremes of inequality and austerity.

So I will be alert to the point at which our grotesque political economy is let off the hook for causing stressed and harsh parenting.

No-one, I’m sure, is more aware of that issue than the Scottish Greens’ John Finnie MSP – the long-term advocate of this law, and one of the great assets of our Parliament.

The National: John Finnie has long advocated the banJohn Finnie has long advocated the ban

In the words of the late great Stephen Maxwell, Scotland wants to conceive of itself as a “moral community”. If this law is to be part of our next step forward, please let’s exercise it with psychological understanding, and with an eye to the economic and social justice that should underpin it.

We break the violent chain – made from the stick, the belt, the tawse, the punch, the open hand – with legislations like these.

But let’s remember how steely the links to the past, for some. Let’s go lovingly, and caringly, in all directions. For the sake of the big, still-broken weans, as well as as the wee ones.