Free to Disagree welcomes Justice Secretary’s letter, says remaining concerns need to be addressed

Today, the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee received written confirmation from Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf that the government will lodge amendments to remove the term ‘likely’ from stirring up hatred offences in the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill.

If backed by MSPs, these amendments will ensure that persons can only commit an offence if it is proven in court that they ‘intended’ to stir up hatred against a protected group.

The government first announced this concession last month following sustained pressure from a range of organisations including the Free to Disagree campaign.

Government statement

In a letter to Committee Convener Adam Tomkins MSP, Mr Yousaf wrote:

“Further to my statement in Parliament on 23 September announcing Scottish Government changes to be proposed to the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill, I am writing to provide details of the amendments that the Scottish Government will lodge to the Bill at Stage 2 and a copy of the Bill as it would look if those amendments are approved by Parliament.

“As you know, in my statement I advised that the Scottish Government would be seeking to change the operation of the stirring up hatred offences in the Bill relating to age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, transgender identity and variations in sex characteristics.

“If approved by Parliament, these changes will have the effect that the stirring up hatred offences relating to these characteristics would require an intention on the part of the accused to stir up hatred as a necessary requirement for the offence to be committed.”

Free to Disagree comment

Responding to the statement, Free to Disagree spokesman Jamie Gillies said:

“This official confirmation that the ‘stirring up’ offences are to be amended is welcome. We are grateful to Mr Yousaf for being willing to listen to concerns from a range of stakeholders and limit the offences to ‘intent’. “There are several issues remaining with the draft legislation and we look forward to working constructively with the government and others in the coming weeks to see these addressed.”