Controversial Hate Crime Bill In Scotland Ratified By Parliament

Country: United Kingdom

Date of incident: March 11, 2021

On March 11th, the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood resolved the new Hate Crime Bill with the consent of 82 to 32 votes. The bill intends to "make provision about an offense of racially aggravated harassment, to make provision about offenses relating to stir up hatred against a group of persons, to abolish the common law offense of blasphemy and for connected purposes." Critics now fear that due to the new legislation many who do not intend hate speech could be reported to the police because of it. Moreover, it contradicts the freedom of expression which fundamentally belongs to a free democracy.

On December 1st, Scotland's Justice Secretary has affirmed that regarding SNP's hate crime bill, one could be prosecuted for stating that men cannot be women. The Hate Crime and Public Order Bill (Scotland) was intended to criminalize expressions and attitudes perceived as "abusive" and aimed at "inciting hatred" against particular groups. However, in return, it restricts freedom of speech and lacks its sufficient protection.

Susan Smith, Director of the women’s rights group For Women Scotland, commented: “When people start throwing around accusations of hate, especially when those people are perceived to have an authority, we think there will be a chilling effect”.

Scottish Conservative justice spokesman Liam Kerr MSP said that the concessions are only “minor changes around the margins instead of removing the clear attacks on freedom of speech”.

The bill, before it comes into force, must ultimately be tested in court. It remains to be seen whether it will then still be considered unlawful.

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Symbolic photo: Photo by Aditya Joshi on Unsplash