The Scottish Government’s controversial hate crime Bill will cost the country around £1.2 million to implement.
A Freedom of Information request by The Christian Institute-backed group Free to Disagree uncovered documents detailing an estimated cost of at least £1,160,600.
The Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act creates a new offence criminalising the ‘stirring up of hatred’ against certain groups, but concerns remain that it will impact free speech, including private conversations in the home.
The documents set out costs including recurring annual fees of £527,600, recorded data provision fees of £488,000 and one-off fees of £100,000.
The fees will impact Police Scotland, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service and other “justice partners”.
The Scottish Government refused to provide costs for “campaign marketing” or “total costs”.
‘Right to know’
Free to Disagree said the figures showed fears voiced before the Bill’s implementation were well-founded.
Spokesman Jamie Gillies said: “It’s quite something that costs for this new, controversial legislation are already over a million pounds for the justice system”.
He called the Scottish Government’s refusal to release all the figures “disappointing”, arguing “Scottish taxpayers are footing the bill for this legislation. They have the right to know.”
Scottish Conservatives’ justice spokesman Jamie Greene, called the costs “astonishing”.
He said his party had “repeatedly warned that the SNP had not costed this Bill properly, but those concerns were dismissed as scaremongering.
“Not only does the Bill itself fail to give protection against potential prosecution for what people say in the privacy of their own homes, the astonishing costs of implementing it have now been laid bare.”
Despite concerns and criticism from a myriad of sources – from the police and senior lawyers, to both religious and secular groups – the hate crime Bill was passed by Holyrood earlier this year.
However, while the original Bill posed a major threat to evangelism and Christian comment on sexual ethics, significant amendments were made to introduce important safeguards.