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Protect Free Speech in Scotland

Scottish Govt says changes will be made to controversial hate crime bill

10 September 2020

On Wednesday, the Scottish Government acknowledged some of the concerns about its hate crime bill and said changes would be proposed before oral evidence sessions on the bill begin.

A Conservative-led debate on the bill provided ample opportunity for MSPs from all sides of the chamber to point out the flaws.

The Scottish Tory motion aimed at scrapping the bill altogether, however the SNP and the Scottish Greens tabled amendments to the motion saying the Government will listen more to views on making changes.

Labour and the Lib Dems said they’d withdraw their support for the bill if the Scottish government fails to follow through and amend the legislation.

Scottish Conservative Justice Spokesman Liam Kerr warned that the intense focus on part two of the bill (this is the part that introduces a new offence of ‘stirring up hatred’) could mean less scrutiny on other parts of the legislation.

Bill not fit for purpose’

Labour's Rhoda Grant said the current bill was not fit for purpose:

“As it stands, it’s not fit for purpose. It will pitch the very people it sets out to protect against each other.”
Rhoda Grant Scottish Labour MSP

She also warned SNP members of the Justice Committee (the lead committee on the bill) not to defend defective drafting but to defend the national interest.

Meanwhile, the Scottish Greens insisted there was ample time for scrutiny and that MSPs would have plenty of time to amend the legislation.

Humza Yousaf, the Justice Secretary hinted that he would propose changes to the legislation before the oral evidence sessions before the justice committee.

“I intend to come back to Parliament before the oral evidence sessions take place at the Justice Committee, to give further details of how I wish to take the bill forward.”
Humza Yousaf Justice Secretary
James and legal analyst Lois McLatchie discuss the hate crime bill

Sub­stan­tial changes must be made

Commenting on the debate, CARE's James Mildred said:

“While we welcome the Scottish Government’s acknowledgement of the very serious concerns we have in relation to the bill, it’s vital concrete changes are made. Complacency on this bill will lead to precious and fundamental freedoms being eroded.

“At CARE, we think the bill is unnecessary because existing laws already address the issues the proposed bill is seeking to address. Given the vast amount of concern expressed by so many across society, it would still be better in our view for the bill to be withdrawn.

“We await with interest the proposed amendments from Mr Yousaf and will respond to these in due course.”
James Mildred Head of Communications

Protect Free Speech in Scotland

The Scottish Government's Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill is raising serious free speech concerns and it's vital MSPs hear from you about your concerns

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