New polling suggests the vast majority of Scots support free speech and are opposed to the Scottish Government’s hate crime plans.
Huge Support For Free Speech
The Savanta ComRes poll of 1,008 Scottish adults shows that 87% think free speech is ‘an important right’ and 63% think disagreement benefits society. 73% do not think disagreement is a sign of hatred.
In total, nearly two thirds of responders supported the classical approach to free speech where ‘words that incite violence’ are criminalised whereas just 29% said the law should criminalise ‘offensive words’.
64% of Scots also think that people today are ‘too quick to shut down debate’.
Strong Opposition to Hate Crime Plans
The polling also revealed strong opposition to the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill.
- 7 in 10 of Scots agreed that ‘for a criminal offence to be committed, there must be a proven intention to ‘stir up hatred’.
- More than 4 in 10 respondents agreed there should be a clause in the bill to protect the freedom to publicly disagree with trans rights.
- 75% of respondents said the term ‘hatred’ means different things to different people.
In our submission to the Justice Committee on the Hate Crime bill, we argued the legislation is unnecessary because existing laws already address the issues the hate crime bill is trying to deal with. This new polling for the Free to Disagree Campaign Group is clear evidence that the majority of Scots would be perfectly happy if the Hate crime bill was quietly dropped. The Scottish Government does not want another ‘Named Person’ fiasco. At the very least, Part 2 with it’s new offence of ‘stirring up hatred’ should be dropped and the free speech clauses strengthened.
A diverse range of critics, from actors to comedians, to lawyers and police officers have raised doubts about the bill which, if unaltered, will supress free speech, artistic expression and leave the police in a very difficult position.