Hate crime bill

Will the SNP finally see sense on its flawed Hate Crime Bill?

The saga of the SNP’s Hate Crime Bill is drawing to a conclusion. This week, Holyrood will cast a decisive vote on the embattled bill. Introduced just ten months ago, it seeks to consolidate existing hate crime laws and create new offences on the ‘stirring up of hatred’ against certain groups. These proposals would make ‘threatening or abusive’ behaviour which ‘stirs up hatred’ on the grounds of age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, transgender identity and variations in sex characteristics a criminal offence, punishable by up to seven years in prison, an unlimited fine or, for the extremely unfortunate, both. The proposals have proved highly controversial and understandably so. In our society,

The SNP was wrong to back down to the transgender mob

The SNP’s hate crime bill has done plenty of damage to the party’s credibility. But it seems the party leadership is determined to make matters even worse. The Scottish government has announced that it will withdraw an amendment to the bill that would have permitted free speech on transgender issues. This move, a capitulation to activists, puts fears about the legislation back at an all-time high. The trans debate is already one in which it is difficult to speak out for fear of being abused, so providing for free speech on this topic is critical. Failing to do so could leave people, and women in particular, open to accusations of

The SNP may never recover from its bungled Hate Crime Bill

The SNP has, until recently, looked unassailable. But amidst the drama surrounding the Alex Salmond inquiry, could a backlash to one of the party’s headline policy proposals sink the unsinkable? Opposition to the SNP’s proposed hate speech law is clearly growing. The Holyrood government assumed that pushing through the hate speech component of its Hate Crime and Public Order Bill, published in April 2020, would be plain sailing. It would probably attract the middle-class progressives who traditionally supported the SNP; it also looked fairly easy to sell to ordinary Scots as a technical updating of the law inspired by a carefully-drafted official report from a Court of Session judge. Any opposition from free

Scotland’s Hate Crime Bill would have a chilling effect on free speech

Among the encroachments on Milton’s three supreme liberties contained in Humza Yousaf’s Hate Crime Bill is a cloturing of the debate on gender identity and the law. Proposals to remove medical expertise from the gender recognition process have either stalled or been shelved, but not before their radical scope prompted a lively dispute about the ethics of gender identity, sex-based rights and the freedom to dissent. That freedom will be meaningfully reduced in Scotland if the Hate Crime Bill becomes law because it is a piece of legislation that begins from the position that all legitimate debate has already concluded. The Bill creates an offence of ‘stirring up hatred’ against

Scotland’s chilling new blasphemy law

The new Hate Crime Bill proposed by the Scottish Government is a sweeping threat to freedom of speech and conscience. The draft law radically expands the power of the state to punish expression and expression-adjacent behaviour, such as possession of ‘inflammatory material’. It provides for the prosecution of ill-defined ‘organisations’ (and individuals within them) and could even see actors and directors prosecuted if a play they perform is considered to contain a hate crime. Its schedule of protected characteristics is extended beyond race (which covers ethnicity, national origin and citizenship) to include age, disability, ‘religion or… perceived religious affiliation’, sexual orientation, transgender identity and ‘variations in sex characteristics’. If the