The Scottish Government's Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill aims to repeal ancient blasphemy laws and adds to the list of groups that are currently specifically protected by hate crime laws. The Bill also creates a new offence of stirring up hatred.
What’s happened so far?
- It was then considered by the Justice Committee who produced a Stage 1 report calling for significant changes.
- MSPs debated the general principles of the bill at Stage 1 on 15 December 2020 and the Bill passed by 91 votes to 29.
- Stage 2 scrutiny began on Tuesday 2 February, with the Justice Committee going through amendments to the bill and then voting on them. Following that day's scrutiny, agreement was reached to draw up a new, 'catch-all' free speech clause for the bill.
- The second day of Stage 2 consideration of amendments by MSPs at the Committee was on 9 February. Some further changes were made to the bill, including the removal of the 'inflammatory materials' provisions. However, MSPs failed to pass amendments to introduce a dwelling defence.
Please contact all your MSPs ahead of Stage 3 on 10 March
The final stage of scrutiny at Stage 3 will take place on 10 March. This is the last opportunity to make changes to the legislation to protect free speech in Scotland.
Please email your MSPs and ask them to vote in favour of strong free speech protections to make sure people in Scotland continue to have the right to express their beliefs.
We also suggest asking your MSPs to do the following:
- ask your MSPs to ensure that the stirring up offences are withdrawn or at minimum, amended to narrow their scope.
- ensure that the provisions in the bill are precise and narrow so that they do not invite broad interpretations.
- ensure a clear and comprehensive protection of freedom of speech to neutralise the negative effects of the stirring up offences. The current protections do not go far enough to ensure that freedom of speech is preserved. This needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency. If it is not, the Bill must be voted off.
- ensure that a dwelling defence to protect the right to family life and privacy is included in the Bill. The lack of such dwelling defence will mean criminalisation of private conversations.
If the above issues are not addressed, ask them to vote the Bill down.