Scottish hate crime Bill delayed over ‘huge pressures’ on police resources

The Scottish Government’s controversial hate crime Bill will not come into force until at least 2024.

The Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act, which Holyrood passed in March 2021, made it a criminal offence to ‘stir up hatred’ against certain groups.

While the original Bill posed a major threat to evangelism and Christian comment on sexual ethics, significant amendments were made to introduce important safeguards. However, concerns remain over the impact on free speech, including private conversations in the home.

‘Huge pressures’

A Scottish Government spokesperson told The Scotsman: “We are working towards a commencement period of early 2024. This is to provide enough time to allow justice partners to complete a number of IT change programmes and for the delivery of a robust package of training and guidance for officers prior to commencement.”

In a letter sent last February, Assistant Chief Constable Gary Ritchie said it would be “impractical” to implement the Bill in 2022 due to “constraints on operational policing resources; training resources and scheduling capacity”.

Scottish Conservative Justice Spokesman Jamie Greene MSP commented: “Given the huge pressures continuing to prepare for this Act has put on our police, it is hardly surprising that it looks set to be delayed even further.”


Writing in The Herald, columnist Mark Smith criticised the Bill for being “hopelessly vague,” saying: “What is hatred? Is it the same as insulting? And how likely is likely? Do we mean probable, more probable than not, or what exactly? Criminal law must have certainty and the hate law fails that test badly.”

He likened the Bill to the Scottish Government’s 2012 Offensive Behaviour at Football Act, which made ‘stirring up religious hatred’ a crime and was eventually abolished after every opposition party backed its repeal.

Criminal law must have certainty and the hate law fails that test badly.

He stated: “Ten years on, it’s obvious the same fundamental problems exist with the Hate Crime Act, almost as if the Scottish Government isn’t learning from its mistakes.”

A series of Scottish laws have been successfully challenged over recent years. In 2019, the Named Person scheme was axed, three years after the Supreme Court ruled that it breached the European Convention of Human Rights. And the recent ‘sex swaps’ law has been blocked by the UK Government on constitutional grounds.


In 2021, it was revealed that the Scottish Government’s hate crime Bill would 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 fees will impact Police Scotland, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service and other “justice partners”.

Also see:

Free speech

Police Scotland logged over 900 non-crime ‘hate’ cases in 2021

Free speech concerns dog Ireland’s hate crime bill

‘Hate crime’ course ditched by Hampshire Police

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