The Scottish Government’s deeply controversial hate crime Bill is set to become law after it was passed in Holyrood.
The Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill will create a new offence criminalising the ‘stirring up of hatred’ against certain groups, and concerns remain that it will impact free speech, including private conversations in the home.
However, while the original Bill posed a major threat to evangelism and Christian comment on sexual ethics, significant amendments have been made to introduce important safeguards.
When it was first proposed, anything deemed ‘likely’ to stir up hatred was to be a criminal offence, but this was altered so that it is now necessary for ‘intent’ to be proven.
There will also be more robust protections for religious debate, which will protect the freedom to proclaim the Gospel. A section of the Bill which would have criminalised those in possession of ‘inflammatory materials’, which could have included the Bible, has been removed entirely.
And a free speech clause was added protecting discussion and criticism of matters relating to transgender identity.
‘Rhetoric and reality’
The Christian Institute’s Simon Calvert thanked CI supporters and those involved in the Institute-backed Free to Disagree campaign for their efforts in improving the Bill.
He said: “‘Tackling hatred’ sounds a noble cause. But rhetoric and reality are not the same thing. The original Bill was so broad it could have seen people prosecuted simply for explaining Christian sexual ethics.”
“The Scottish Government came under unprecedented pressure and was forced to concede several key changes to its plans.
“Yes, it would have been better to have dropped Part 2, the section on stirring up hatred, completely. But if you were one of those who took action: thank you. Free speech in Scotland is safer because of you.”