Scotland: The Hate Crime Bill is passed by Parliament
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The controversial laws, passed this week, are set to force Scots to censor themselves in their own homes as people could be prosecuted for inciting hatred anywhere. The Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill was backed by 82 votes to 32 with four abstentions, bringing to an end one of the most heated and contentious Bill processes in the 20 years of the Scottish Parliament.
The new legislation creates a criminal offence of stirring up hatred against protected groups, expanding on a similar offence based on race that has been on the statute books for decades, as well as consolidating a number of different pieces of hate crime legislation.
But more than 2,000 people responded to a call for views made last year after the publication of the Bill’s first iteration, and concerns over freedom of expression led to a number of changes to the legislation before it was passed on Thursday.
Concerns were also raised that conversations over the dinner table that incite hatred could be prosecuted while actors and playwrights could become criminally liable for what they say during plays.
Scottish PEN representing writers, playwrights groups and the Humanist Society of Scotland are among those who have also raised concerns about the new law, along with Mr Bean star Rowan Atkinson.
The Scottish Conservative Party leader said their manifesto will contain a pledge to repeal the Bill as soon as possible if they are elected on May 6.
Mr Ross said: “We will seek to overturn the dangerous threats to freedom of speech and our fundamental rights that Humza Yousaf refused to remove.
“The SNP Government has no place criminalising what people say in their own homes.
“Other opposition parties did not do enough to force the SNP to fix this shambles of a Bill but I now ask that they take this moment and reconsider.
“The passing of this Bill shows the clear danger of an SNP majority and why the Scottish Conservatives are determined to stop them in the coming election.
“Without enough opposition MSPs to challenge the SNP, they would pass even more oppressive bills.”
Scottish Labour, the Greens and the Scottish Lib Dems all supported the bill while the Scottish Tories voted against it.
SNP depute leader Jim Sillars claimed Scots are about to “enter a new but darker Scotland where instead of our age-old rights to free thought and free speech”
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Agreeing with the Tory issues of the legislation, Mr Sillars added: “We must zip our mouths and ultimately close down the critical faculties that come with our minds.”
However, Scotland’s Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf defended the legislation saying by the passage of the bill by the Scottish Parliament had sent a “strong and clear message to victims, perpetrators, communities and to wider society that offences motivated by prejudice will be treated seriously and will not be tolerated”.
Mr Yousaf added: “We must remember why this Bill is so necessary, every day in Scotland around 18 hate crimes are committed.
“The effects of these crimes are felt deeply by those targeted and this prejudice has a pernicious effect on the health of a society and its communities.
“Not only that, the toll hate crime takes on its victims, their families and communities, is immense.”
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