The Christian Institute

News Release

Hate Crime Bill concessions are “a start” but “more changes are needed”

The Christian Institute has welcomed the Justice Secretary’s willingness to compromise on one of the most controversial parts of his unpopular hate crimes bill, but warned there are many more changes to be made before the legislation will be truly safe for free speech.

Simon Calvert, Deputy Director for Public Affairs, said this afternoon:

“Humza Yousaf has agreed to change one aspect of his unpopular hate crime bill. This is a start and is welcome as far as it goes. But the criticisms levelled at the legislation by institutions and individuals across Scotland are much more far-reaching, and so more changes are needed.

“The Justice Secretary said nothing about how he will define the concept of hatred in a way that does not threaten freedom of speech.

“He has left in place the threshold of ‘abusive’ words, which, combined with other flaws, leave the Part 2 stirring up offences open to misuse against the innocent.

“He has not said anything about the absence of a free speech clause to protect feminists and others who critique the ideology of the trans movement.

“Nor has he explained why similar legislation in the rest of the UK requires prosecutions to be signed off at the highest level, to try to avoid miscarriages of justice, whereas this bill will leave decisions with local procurators fiscal, risking a postcode lottery over free speech.

“He has also left the stirring up offences reaching into homes, so you can be convicted over private conversations in your own home.

“Unless the Part 2 offences are amended further, they will continue to present a danger to freedom of speech.”

The Christian Institute is publishing today a comparison between the Scottish Government’s hate crime Bill, as currently drafted, and the equivalent legislation for England and Wales.

The Westminster law on stirring up hatred on grounds of religion was radically trimmed back from the Bill proposed by Tony Blair’s labour Government, thanks to the votes of SNP MPs. The Commons voted for a series of radical amendments on 31 January 2006. This consisted of two votes which passed by 288 votes to 278 and 283 votes to 282. The votes of SNP MPs were decisive. Of the SNP’s six MPs at the time, the following voted to accept all the amendments:

Alex Salmond MP
Angus MacNeil MP
Angus Robertson MP
Michael Weir MP
Stewart Hosie MP