The SNP’s hate crime Bill will drag people through the courts for ‘misspeaking’, a top lawyer has warned.
The Scottish Government’s Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill intends to criminalise ‘stirring up hatred’ against people on the basis of certain ‘protected characteristics’, including religion, sexuality and transgender identity.
Thomas Ross QC accused the Scottish Government of failing to define offences included in the proposed Bill.
Ross said: “If the Scottish Government is going to create an offence that can be committed unintentionally, drafters of the legislation have to make the essentials of the offence crystal clear. They’ve failed to do that.”
“The language used in the Bill is so difficult to understand that it will be impossible for the man or woman in the street to know when the line is likely to be crossed.”
He concluded: “As a result a lot of interesting debate simply will never take place”.
Free to Disagree
Writing in the Scottish Daily Mail, Jim Sillars, former Deputy Leader of the SNP, also stressed that free speech is “the intellectual life-blood of a society”.
“If we live in fear of saying what we think, we are into self-censorship and its deadening effect upon intellectual life.”
He added: “A new campaign, Free to Disagree, aims to resist this cynical legislation. I’m proud to lend it my support and implore other free-minded citizens to do the same.”
The Scottish Daily Mail’s editorial described the proposed legislation as “the road to censorship on a scale that should deeply concern anyone who values free speech as a cornerstone of democracy”.
“The implications are profound: the state is effectively telling us which views can be safely voiced – and threatening to lock us up if we disagree.”
It added: “The problem is that once severe limits are placed on what can and cannot be said or written, free speech, in any meaningful sense, ceases to exist.”