SNP hate crime law faces barrage of criticism

Scots are becoming more vocal in their opposition to the Scottish Government’s controversial ‘hate crime’ law amid growing free speech concerns.

The Hate Crime and Public Order Act, which was passed during Humza Yousaf’s tenure as Justice Secretary, is due to take effect on 1 April.

Earlier this month, The Christian Institute-backed group Free to Disagree warned that the legislation is unworkable and carries a real risk of wrongful arrest.


Katharina Kasper, Chair of the Scottish Police Authority watchdog, reported that people feared the process of investigating an allegation would be ‘punishment enough’ and stifle “freedom of expression”.

She told Police Scotland Chief Constable Jo Farrell that “credible voices across the judicial sector and human rights organisations” had criticised the law’s lack of free speech protections.

Legal expert Professor Adam Tomkins recently warned that 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”.

‘Pernicious attack’

In a letter to the Herald, former Deputy Leader of the SNP Jim Sillars described the Act as “a political disaster waiting to explode under the Scottish Government”.

He continued: “As demonstrated by your correspondents it is flawed law, absurd, and is rejected as a pernicious attack on the fundamentals of a free society: the right to think and articulate thought.”

He added: “I for one have no intention of paying any regard to it in the way I think, write, talk and argue. I regard my right to free speech, to say what I think, to offend and be offended, as essential to my cultural, social and political life.

“I was born in 1937 into a free society, and I don’t intend to die in one that is unfree, where a police constable can tell me what is and what is not permissible.”


Criticism has also come from across the political spectrum. During First Minister’s Questions, Labour’s Pauline McNeill urged Yousaf to engage with organisations that are “still concerned that the legislation will be used maliciously to silence legitimate opinion”.

The SNP’s Joanna Cherry expressed similar concerns when she said: “I have little doubt that this new law will be weaponised by trans rights activists to try to silence, and worse still, criminalise women who do not share their beliefs.”

And writing in The Scotsman, Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser accused the SNP of giving “far too much leeway to the imaginations of vexatious complainers”.

He added: “It is fair to say that, at a stroke, this piece of legislation makes Scotland the most hateful country in the world at the same time as becoming one of the most absurdly laughable nations on the globe.”

UK Government

A spokesman for the UK Government said: “The SNP is taking Scotland down a very dangerous path, with potential for seriously chilling effects on free speech.”

He explained that “biological sex matters and gender-critical beliefs are protected in British law” and the Government had no plans to introduce similar legislation in England.

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

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