KEIR Starmer has come under fire after calling for the rest of the UK to copy the Welsh government’s smacking ban – despite the Scottish Government introducing the move two years ago.

The Scottish Greens said the Labour leader was displaying “embarrassing ignorance”.

The physical punishment of children is outlawed in Wales as of Monday, meaning any type of corporal punishment, including smacking, hitting, slapping and shaking, has been made illegal.

Hailing the Labour Welsh administration’s move, Starmer said: “I would like to see the rest of the UK step into line here, because I think, well, Welsh Labour have taken a lead here.”

In 2019, the Scottish Parliament passed the Children (Equal Protection from Assault (Scotland)) Bill, a Members’ Bill introduced by then-Greens MSP John Finnie (below). The rules came into force in November 2020

Ross Greer, the party’s spokesperson for children and young people, commented: “Keir Starmer has revealed an embarrassing ignorance of what is happening in Scotland.

“It is fantastic to see Wales give children equal protection from assault but he should have known that Scotland was the first UK nation to do so thanks to Scottish Greens MSP John Finnie, following in turn from Ireland’s approach.”

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He continued: “Evidence shows that growing up with violence causes considerable harm. Hopefully England and Northern Ireland will now follow Scotland and Wales, so that children across these islands can grow up feeling safe and loved.”

The Welsh smacking ban, as it is known, was brought in under the Children (Abolition of Defence of Reasonable Punishment) (Wales) Act 2020 and marks the end of the common law defence of “reasonable punishment”.

It means children will get the same protection from assault as adults, and the law will apply to everyone, even those visiting Wales – as is the case with all Welsh laws.

Parents or anyone who is responsible for a child while the parents are absent can now face criminal or civil charges if they are found to have physically disciplined a young person in any way.

In England and Northern Ireland smacking is unlawful, but such an assault is allowed as long as it constitutes “reasonable punishment”.

Whether the defence was accepted depended on the circumstances of each case, taking into consideration factors such as the age of the child and the nature of the contact, including whether it left a red mark or was carried out with a fist or implement such as a cane or belt.

Welsh first minister Mark Drakeford said: “The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child makes it clear that children have the right to be protected from harm and from being hurt and this includes physical punishment.

“That right is now enshrined in Welsh law. No more grey areas. No more ‘defence of reasonable punishment’. That is all in the past.”

He added: “There is no place for physical punishment in a modern Wales.”