On Being Reasonable

In a victory for the Scottish Parliament that will stand next to the smoking ban as a social policy achievement – today is a victory for Green MSP John Finnie and a host of children’s charities – as we agree that it’s wrong to assault our children.

If it seems incredible that we should be celebrating this simple concept well into the 21st Century, it does represent a porous democracy where government listen and respond and NGOs and civil society have clout.

The move came after SNP ministers had promised to “ensure” a ban on smacking would become law. There is still no ban in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, where “reasonable chastisement” is allowed provided it does not leave a mark, bruise, swelling or cut.

If these policy shifts seem mundane and prosaic in their very average Common Sense – and slightly distasteful in their complete lack of tribal point-scoring – they also act as a salve to the madness that surrounds us. Gulp the air down as you realise that not everything is wrong, collapsing, hopeless or entering a new form of surrealism.

A spokesperson for Barnardo’s Scotland, Children 1st and NSPCC Scotland said:

“We are delighted that the Scottish Government has given such a clear commitment to ensuring children have equal protection from violence in Scots Law. Repeated international reviews of evidence, including Equally Protected? which we jointly published in 2015, show beyond all doubt that physical punishment doesn’t work and can be harmful to children.

“John Finnie’s Bill will not create a new criminal offence. It will remove the defence of ‘justifiable assault’, which is out of step with the majority of parents’ practice, children’s rights and most other countries in Europe. It will also bring clarity for families while enabling parents to continue to make their own decisions about how best to raise their children. A clear message will be sent: violence in any shape or form is not acceptable in Scotland.

“The Bill is not only supported by our politicians but also by an extensive number of organisations and individuals. We are delighted that the Scottish Government is reflecting the evidence and expertise of professionals working with children and families, and most importantly the views of children themselves”.

But not everyone agrees.

Murdo Fraser, who seems to be creating a niche for himself as a sort of incoherent libertarian writes:


Such libertarianism is markedly absent when Fraser and his colleagues celebrate the ‘rule of law’ in Catalonia or urge a ‘crackdown’ on gypsy travelers.

But if Fraser seems like a multiply-rejected lone wolf advocate, that’s not true. There’s a whole campaign out there urging us to hit our children.

A group calling itself ‘Be Reasonable Scotland‘ is a key organiser, and of course the campaign has backing from the likes of the Scottish Daily Express …

It gets murkier. As Tom Dissonance reveals:

“PR for the pro-smacking children group is being handled by a Tory PR company who took $$$ from Big Tobacco to downplay the risks of tobacco”.

See here.

Not only that but the two named supporters on Be Reasonable’s site are something called The Family Education Trust’ and ‘The Christian Institute’.

Also key is someone called Ashley Frawley who’s is doing a Phd at the University of Kent (*alarm bells ringing*).

Check her lovely tweet here: “We used to watch out for each other. Now we just watch each other”  [by beating our children – Ed]

Who is her PhD supervisor? Why none other than Frank Furedi. He was originally called Ferenc Füredi, but has also worked under the pseudonyms Frank Richards and Linda Ryan.

Furedi is the leader of the cult/front group behind Spiked and a dozen connected groups collectively known as the LM Network. Posturing as ‘left’ but advocating a range of far-right causes under the banner of libertarianism the group are widely thought to be a black-ops or agent provocateur group with high-level backing.

Scottish PR for ‘Be Reasonable’ is being done by Tom Hamilton Communications. Hamilton was formerly at the Daily Record & Sunday Mail.

The response to the attempts to protect children have provoked a well coordinated and well resourced response from the far right.

As Chris McPhail writes of the image opposite: “Imagine growing up and having to explain an early pic of you and yer maw was on a campaign poster advocating her right to hit you.”

Over the coming week we’ll be exposing the connections between PR firms, fundamentalist Christian groups, Conservatives, the ‘academic’ research groups and fronts uniting to promote hitting children.

If you have any information on these groups or their connections please contact us.


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Comments (16)

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  1. lois aitkenhead says:

    What surprises me is that those who seek support for the ban 0n smacking fail to take the opportunity to point to 1978 and the ruling (from the European court) to end an abuse of children of all ages while in school. Across Scotland children were being ‘punished’ i.e. hit by a specially designed leather belt, by adults who were in loco-parentis and paid salaries to educate the children in their care.

    Yes, it was acceptable and approved behaviour pre-1978. Yes, EIS (Educational Institute of Scotland) supported corporal punishment; yes, the argument was that teachers would be ‘criminalised if the court ruled that use of the taws was illegal; yes, we were told that classes would become out of control and education as we knew it would cease ….
    What we can see is that in the years since the legislation came into effect, despite the fact that the majority of the Scottish populace supported 5 year olds being punished in this manner by their teachers, attitudes have changed. It is now unacceptable to the vast majority of adults and children and indeed I like to think Murdo Fraser would agree it is unthinkable that we could re-introduce corporal punishment in school.
    If the ban on smacking comes into effect, attitudes will change. In a few years we will look back and view the present situation and our approach to children and parenting as do our neighbours in almost every other European nation.

    I do not want to suggest that we are witnessing another bias from the media on this issue. Nonetheless, I remain surprised that I have heard no reference to the important decision taken by the European Court in 1978. It came about as a consequence of great courage on the part of one Scottish family who sought to protect their son from inhumane and degrading treatment. We are all witness to the beneficial consequences for our society.

  2. Welsh Sion says:

    Dear Bella,

    After some digging, here is some of my research.

    Be reasonable launch:


    Article alleges that “criminalising (Welsh) parents for smacking” is not supported by the majority of Welshies. (cf. Current stories doing the rounds in Scottish MSM about Scottish parents).

    (Dr) Ashley Frawley:


    Lowri Turner:

    Doesn’t seem to be the journalist/nutritionist who has created a lot of enemies on Mumsnet (see Google), but still interesting.

    As she is Welsh and Ashley Frawley also has Welsh connections (see above) this is of particular interest to me …

    Ferenc Füredi:



    Tom Hamilton:


    LM Network:


  3. Blair Paterson says:

    Once again they trot out their phoney opinion polls stating 3 out of 4 people are against the ban they try to imply this 3 out of 4 of all the people in Scotland but of course it is not it is only 3 out of 4of the people they asked and they never tell you how many they asked these polls are complete fraud and should be banned by law it is a way of implying that their research is honest and it is not

  4. SleepingDog says:

    Nanny state… was one of the public confessions of French political philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau that the spankings his nanny gave him developed into a sexual fetish? Could that be one of reasons that these fringe groups are pro-child-beating? And not support for the proud British traditions of terror tactics (it introduced new systems of corporal punishment to its Empire) and hypocritical double-standards (different punishments for different castes)?

    Surely the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which enshrines protection against violence is the key statement of principle here? It this extremely-well-supported global agreement routinely unmentioned in UK mainstream media because official-ally the USA alone refuses to ratify it?

  5. Wul says:

    Excellent work Bella.

    I applaud your efforts to expose wealthy self interest subverting our democracy.

    I’ll be doubling my financial support to you as soon as I get home.

  6. Alastair McIntosh says:

    Brilliant work there, Mike, especially the apparent link to Spiked and the creepy way authoritarianism tries to burnish its image by claiming to be “Christian” – to the massive detriment, the ongoing crucifixion, of the God of love.

  7. Wul says:

    “Be Reasonable Scotland” has a scenario on its web site:

    A parent, “David”, gets a criminal record, suspended prison sentence and loses his job (and career) as a teacher. All because he pulls his child back by the arm from running across the road in front of a car.

    Any parent who believes the codswallop on that web site shouldn’t be out on their own, far less in charge of a child.

  8. Alasdair Macdonald says:

    When the BBC Scotland phone in does the hatchet job on this proposal, you can be sure that representatives of this group will get plenty of opportunity to vomit their bile.

  9. Interpolar says:

    On the other hand, the call to outlaw smacking should be accompanied by advice on and advocacy for alternative methods for parents struggling to guide/discipline their children. If smacking is simply replaced by the withdrawal of food, solitary confinement or incessant shaming, then forbidding it is not worth the trouble, as bad parents will just turn to potentially far more damaging forms of discipline.

    So to me, to outlaw smacking is fighting one particular symptom rather than the underlying causes that lead to child suffering.

  10. Kenny Smith says:

    I have to be honest and hold my hand up here, I love the bones off my kids and work hard to probably spoil them more than they should so my confession that I have gave my kids a wrap across the hand leg isn’t easy on a forum discussing this topic. All I can say in my defense it’s only happened when their behaviour has been beyond the pale, destructive but it made me feel terrible after and I wish I never done it but then we are not robots so I suppose we can boil over now and again. Totally abhor cruelty to children and there should be protection in place. Obviously I don’t read or fall for the express/mail bullshit but would that mean I would be under any kind of monitoring or investigation. Just like the named person act it’s hard to get the point across through all the noise so parents don’t get the facts. Totally agree maybe accompanying the law there could be some parenting plans/info that can be made available. We all could use some help in guidance but people don’t like to admit they struggle with their kids I guess there is still a stigma in admitting when you need a point in the right direction.

    1. Wul says:

      Aye, I’ve done things in anger that I later regretted (usually swearing and/or shouting). Parenting can be hard and we can only take so much. The fact that you feel bad afterwards tells you its not the right thing to have done.

      Remember that no new offences are being created here, it’s just that the defence of “justifiable assault” is being removed. So, if your behaviour towards a child would have landed you in court in the past, in the future, you will no longer have this defence.

      I think that in the real world we will not see any parents in court for losing their rag and slapping a child’s wrist or legs in a supermarket. Rather, it will gradually become less acceptable to hit children until one day it will seem abhorrent that anyone ever did.

      Most children are very highly motivated to be positively regarded by their parents. Telling them you are unhappy with their behaviour and why, is usually enough to “discipline” them. If they go overboard then withdrawal of treats works very well (never withdrawal of essentials like meals) as a punishment.

      Some folks seem to think that its a straight choice between physical or mental/emotional “punishment”, the physical one being confined to a red mark on the legs or whatever. But if you smack a child, the actual harmful impact on them is much more in the psychological domain that the physical. You can’t hit another human being without their emotions and sense of self being impacted.

      If parents didn’t have to work so many hours to provide for their weans, we might see a reduction in family stress.

      1. Kenny Smith says:

        Thanks for your comment Wul. I wasn’t looking to be excused for my behaviour in those 2 or 3 times over the years I know it was wrong hence the feeling of guilt after. I think you made some really good points, I was never beaten as a kid but I did get the odd slap now and again so I guess it’s a cultural shift that is needed. I hate talking about my oldest like she was a monster because most of the time she is a gem but when she kicked off she was like a Tasmanian devil, demonic possession like. We tried all of the things you said, we tried triple p and any NHS guidance we could get. We did try to get a phycological referral because there was times when she lost the plot that much she would literally wreck her room and this was at 5 and under but I suppose because we were a decent working class family we never got the NHS help, understandable given their case load but we did feel a bit let down. We considered going to see someone privately but it was £150 a session. Thankfully as she’s getting older she is able to control her rage now and can be talked down. Your comment about working parents really hit the spot, I work pretty much 12 hours 6 days a week so family life is a struggle and I guess that’s part of the reason I have flipped that odd time because you really are busting a gut to provide as best you can so when she smashed stuff up it did really upset me. Again I’m not looking for an excuse I’m an adult and should have handled it better but I’m not a bad dad and maybe there’s more to things. Stress doesn’t become a cop out but pressure especially financial is a factor.

  11. Anarcho says:

    “Murdo Fraser, who seems to be creating a niche for himself as a sort of incoherent libertarian writes”

    That would be because he is a right-winger, a propertarian not a libertarian. Libertarians are for liberty, not property — and the authoritarian social relationships they create:


    So libertarian was originally a left-wing word, coined by a French anarchist-communist — in an Open Letter denouncing patriarchy and for equality (liberty) in the home between men and women back when wives were viewed as the property of the husband.

    Needless to say, propertarians generally view children as property of their parents — and so oppose the State telling them what to do with their property. They forget that children are people, too…

    1. Wul says:

      Good point.

      A.S. Neil, the Scot who set up the progressive, freedom-focusssed Summerhill School talked about a similar issue.

      His school came often under criticism for encouraging chaos by giving children various freedoms, for example, the freedom to choose whether or not to attend classes.

      He said that his pupils were granted pre-agreed “freedoms” but not “licence”. Licence is power over other people and the ability to impose your own actions on others.

      When some people talk about wanting “freedom” what they really mean is they want “licence”. E.g. the freedom to smoke in a confined office, the freedom to carry a hand gun, the freedom to pollute the air or destroy the commons in pursuit of private wealth.

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