The new Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill is a threat to free speech and will have unintended consequences, according to the Scottish Daily Mail.
In its editorial, the newspaper said the Bill was “a broad and sweeping piece of legislation that risks criminalising speech currently considered offensive or even an expression of political belief.”
The new law aims to extend laws on hate crimes covering particular characteristics including religion, transgender identity and sexual orientation.
Any words or behaviours considered abusive or likely to stir up hatred would constitute an offence.
Threat to free speech is severe
The vague wording, according to the Scottish Daily Mail, “opens up vase swathes of speech and behaviours, currently allowed under law, to potential prosecution on the basis of vague and ill-defined principles.”
The paper went on to say:
Minister apologises for misrepresenting the legislation
Last week confusion reigned after the Justice Secretary, Humza Yousaf, who introduced the Bill was accused of misrepresenting the Bill’s wording.
In a written response to Liam Kerr MSP, the Justice spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives, Mr Yousaf apologised for misrepresenting the legislation but insisted that its language does not constitute ‘a low threshold of criminality.’
He had told the Scottish Parliament that a person’s actions would have to be ‘abusive and threatening to be deemed unlawful. But the draft wording means just a perception of ‘abuse’ could trigger a criminal compliant.