Bestselling author calls on Scot Govt to protect free speech in hate crime Bill

Bestselling author Alexander McCall Smith has called on the Scottish Government to commit to protecting “artistic and intellectual freedom” in its proposed hate crime Bill.

The University of Edinburgh professor, author of ’44 Scotland Street’ and ‘The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency’, set out his concerns in an article for The Scotsman last week.

It comes amid growing criticism of the Scottish Government’s highly controversial Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill.

‘Cry wolf’

McCall Smith warned that “the use of the criminal law to control the expression of views” risked becoming “repressive”.

He highlighted that the legislation “has attracted vociferous criticism from a wide range of public bodies, including the Law Society of Scotland and the police”.

He added that neither of these are “known for a tendency to cry wolf”.

Shut down

The prolific author said the Bill could restrict literary freedom and even the freedom to own and pass on certain books.

He said: “Any legal restraint on what authors can write must be very carefully calibrated, because there are those who will claim offence only too readily and will seek to shut down voices they may not like.”

While McCall Smith said he hoped restraint would be shown in applying such a law, he suggested the police and prosecution authorities might feel “compelled by public outcry to respond to an unjustified complaint”.

Named person

McCall Smith has previously come under fire from the Scottish Government after a character in one of his popular ’44 Scotland Street’ books criticised the SNP’s controversial Named Person scheme.

The character said: “The named person legislation. Can you believe it? Can you believe that they’re insisting that every child in Scotland should have a sort of official guardian – because that’s what it amounts to. Can you conceive of a better way of insulting parents?”

Also see:

Holyrood, Scottish Parliament
Scottish Labour: ‘Hate crime Bill could threaten free speech’

New campaign: ‘Hate Crime Bill a serious threat to free speech’

Scots QC: ‘Hate crime Bill could criminalise comedy’

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