Hate Crime Bill clears first hurdle but overhaul required

The Scottish Government’s controversial Hate Crime Bill cleared its first hurdle this evening but MSPs stressed that more, significant amendments are required before the bill is fit for purpose.

A majority of MSPS – 91 to 29 – backed the ‘general principles’ of the bill, meaning it can proceed to Stage 2 line-by-line scrutiny. A final Stage 3 debate will take place early next year.

During the debate, MSPs from every party expressed concern about the contentious stirring up of hatred offences in Part 2 of the bill. A summary of the date is available here.

The offences caused considerable alarm when they were published in April, drawing criticism from lawyers, police officers, journalists, authors, comics and faith groups.

Jamie Gillies, spokesman for the Free to Disagree campaign, commented:

“Today, the Hate Crime Bill achieved cautious support from MSPs on the basis that further, significant amendments are made to the controversial stirring up hatred offences.

“In the weeks ahead, MSPs must ensure that the full list of Justice Committee recommendations are adopted, or they risk inadvertently undermining freedom of expression.

“The Justice Secretary rightly noted that protecting free speech and punishing crimes motivated by hatred are not mutually exclusive. With key amendments, a good resolution can be found.”

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