The Free to Disagree campaign has welcomed an announcement by Cabinet Secretary for Justice Humza Yousaf that more aspects of the controversial Hate Crime Bill are to be amended.
In a response to the Justice Committee’s Stage 1 report on the bill, issued this afternoon, the Scottish Government announced four significant concessions. It states:
“The overwhelming majority of the Committee’s recommendations have been accepted by the Scottish Government ahead of the Stage 1 debate. These include: a strengthening of protection for freedom of expression provisions; ensuring the test of the term ‘abusive’ in the Bill is an objective test; bringing within the Bill’s hate crime framework the existing offence of racially aggravated harassment; proposing new limits on Police powers of search and entry within the Bill.
“In addition, and reflecting on concerns raised from some faith groups, artists, authors and others, the Scottish Government will seek to remove entirely ‘Section 5’ from the Bill which deals with offences relating to possession of inflammatory materials.”
Cabinet Secretary Humza Yousaf added:
“I have accepted the overwhelming majority of the recommendations from the Committee and will bring forward amendments at Stage 2 designed to, amongst other matters, strengthen protections for freedom of expression.
“Through the whole process I have listened to concerns raised and proposed amendments to be introduced at Stage 2 of the Bill to address these concerns. That approach will not change. I will continue to listen to concerns members may have about any aspect of the Bill and, where possible, will try and reach common ground.”
Spokesman for the Free to Disagree campaign Jamie Gillies commented:
“We’re grateful to Humza Yousaf for promising more, significant amendments to the Hate Crime Bill.
“Strengthening the free speech provisions, adding an objective test to the term ‘abusive’ and removing the provisions on ‘inflammatory’ material will help protect freedom of expression – a vital right cherished by all citizens – and increase public confidence in the proposals.
“We have two additional suggestions for the Cabinet Secretary – a prosecution lock and a dwelling defence. Adding these additional safeguards will bring the bill in line with other stirring up hatred laws in the rest of the UK.”