Scot Govt urged to ditch ‘hate crime’ law over free speech concerns

Free speech campaigners have urged the Scottish Government to “think again” about controversial new hate crime legislation due to come into force next month.

The Christian Institute-backed group Free to Disagree has warned that the Hate Crime and Public Order Act is unclear, poorly understood and carries a real risk of wrongful arrest.

Significant amendments had to be made to the original Bill to stop it posing a major threat to evangelism and Christian comment on sexual ethics. However, concerns remain over its impact on free speech.


Free to Disagree spokesman Jamie Gillies said there was considerable “public anxiety” about the impact of the legislation on civil liberties.

“It is abundantly clear that there are still serious issues with this legislation, particularly regarding police and public understanding of the new law.

“If a law is not clearly understood by the people implementing it, and the people who stand to be punished under it, it will fail.

“Free to Disagree has always warned that the new approach is unworkable and we’d urge the government to think again.”

Bogus claims

Critics have also said that Police Scotland’s pledge to investigate every reported hate crime will lead to the force being swamped with false claims.

Professor Adam Tomkins, the John Millar Chair of Public Law at the University of Glasgow, said: “It is not a crime to offend someone.”

However, he continued, under the new law “a great deal of police time is now likely to be wasted having to deal with and dismiss ill-founded complaints made by people who are offended, upset, hurt or distressed by something someone else has said”.

This concern was echoed by James Chalmers, Regius Professor of Law at the University of Glasgow, who observed: “the toxicity of some social media debate may mean we see instances of some people making excessive claims about what the act prevents”.

Elite disconnect

Writing in a similar vein in The Times, Alex Massie said: “Welcome, friends, to the new Scotland: a land of easily-bruised feelings where everyone is forever on notice that plod may come knocking at any moment.”

He added: “An illiberal polity such as Scotland is fertile territory for scolds and petty axe-grinders. It is easy to imagine circumstances in which groundless or malicious complaints are reported to the authorities.”

And journalist Stephen Daisley, who confesses in the Scottish Daily Mail to having “railed” against the policy from the outset, commented: “Scotland’s governing class is full of out-of-touch, ultra-progressive ideologues who resent the population they rule over.

“They consider us thick, racist and bigoted and are as one in their mission to remould our minds to be more like theirs. Their Hate Crime Act is outrageous, illiberal and unworkable but they can’t see it because they are so blinded by their own hate monster.”

Also see:

‘Report hurtful words’ says Scots Govt ‘hate crime’ campaign

‘Ireland’s vague hate crime Bill will criminalise ordinary people’ warns leading critic

Street preacher wins £15k after wrongful arrest for ‘hate crime’

Finnish Christian MP twice cleared over ‘hate crime’ Bible tweet may face Supreme Court