The Scottish Government’s hate crime Bill is a “sinister threat” to free speech and “everything it means to be Scottish”, a BBC presenter has said.
Writing in The Sunday Times, historian and archaeologist Neil Oliver, best known for presenting the BBC’s ‘Coast’, said time is running out for free speech in Scotland unless the Government’s proposals are abandoned.
If passed, the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill would criminalise words deemed “likely” to “stir up hatred” against particular groups. It would not require any proof of intent.
“You will hear a lot less from all sorts of people in Scotland about all sorts of things. It will be safer in the minds of many to keep quiet, to keep the head down, to hold that thought”, said Oliver.
Highlighting how Edinburgh-based author JK Rowling has been accused of hate crime for her beliefs on transgenderism, he noted: “I have spoken in support of her freedom of speech and so, in theory, we might end up in the dock together.”
He concluded: “Now should be festival time in Edinburgh. You have to wonder what next year’s gathering would be like in the shadow of the new law.
“Why would anyone bother cracking a joke, far less voicing an opinion, in a city where such antics could lead to a prison cell? Any law that closes mouths and minds will force us further down a dark road.”
‘Clamour of dissent’
In an editorial, the Scottish Daily Mail reflected that Oliver is “right to be concerned” about the Bill.
It wrote that the SNP “must wake up to the mounting clamour of dissent – and drop this egregious assault on a fundamental cornerstone of our democracy”.