Free expression clause added to Scots anti-sectarianism Bill

The Scottish Government has added a free speech clause into its anti-sectarianism Bill, but critics are still questioning the need for new legislation.

Earlier this week MSPs on Holyrood’s justice committee met to vote on a series of amendments for the Government’s beleaguered Bill.

The Committee voted in favour of the freedom of expression clause, but Labour maintained its opposition to the Bill by abstaining from voting on any of the amendments.


Roseanna Cunningham, Community Safety Minister, said: “The intention of the amendment is not to prevent legitimate religion discussion and debate.”

Colm Dempsey, a defence lawyer, said: “This is a positive change to the Bill”.

And Mairi Clare Rodgers, from the campaign group Liberty, said: “We welcome this admission from the Scottish Government that its Bill is chilling to free speech.


“But the offence remains dangerously broad and a nightmare for police to enforce.”

James Kelly, Labour’s Shadow Justice Minister, said: “The reason we abstained was to give ministers time to reflect on the legislation and call a halt to the Bill.


“As it currently stands we do not believe it is fit for purpose and Parliament should not be asked to pass bad law.”

Green MSP Patrick Harvie said: “I’m still not convinced that this Bill can be fixed – its flaws are too deep.

“Ministers are stubbornly determined to force it through in the teeth of consistent and reasoned opposition from all quarters, inside and outside Parliament.”

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