Comedy giant John Cleese has said the Scottish Government’s hate crime Bill would have a “disastrous” effect on free speech.
In an online debate hosted by the free speech think-tank Academy of Ideas, Cleese argued that the Bill’s “over-sensitivity” threatened to shackle creative “spontaneity”.
Unlike similar legislation for England and Wales, the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill does not contain crucial free speech clauses.
The comedian said: “If you’re having to edit everything you say before you say it then nothing is going to happen creatively”.
“Things that are rather lovely and funny in ordinary conversation, they’re not going to happen either because everybody’s thinking ‘oh somebody might offend’.”
Cleese, famous for his role as the hapless Basil Fawlty, warned against the outlook of a “small number” of people, working to a “completely different” rule, being allowed to control the way we speak.
Cleese said there seemed to be a group of people just “waiting to be offended” but warned “all these different kinds of attitudes” cannot be legislated for.
He concluded: “we don’t want to run society according to the sensitivities of the people who are most easily upset”.
Cleese joins fellow comedy legend Rowan Atkinson in expressing serious concerns about the effect of certain aspects of the Scottish Bill on their profession.