Scot Gov urged to ditch problem aspects of new hate crime law

Campaigners who opposed the Scottish Government’s new hate crime law have urged Ministers to ditch the most controversial aspects of the legislation to avoid “future headaches”.

The Free to Disagree campaign speaks out after reports that the Hate Crime and Public Order Act 2021 will now not be enforced until at least 2024, amid ongoing problems.

Jamie Gillies, a spokesman for the Free to Disagree campaign, said:

“When the Scottish Government introduced its Hate Crime Bill, critics immediately took issue with substantive new offences on the stirring up of hatred. These measures were thought to present a significant threat to free expression and police impartiality.

Although scrutiny of these provisions led to some amendments, including a crucial raising of the threshold for offending, problems persist with professional and public understanding of the new law, which will now not be enforced until at least 2024.

Senior police figures continue to cast aspersions on the enforceability of the ‘stirring up’ offences and highlight a threat of inappropriate police intervention in public debates – a scenario made more likely by censoriousness in wider culture.

During parliamentary scrutiny of the Hate Crime Bill, Free to Disagree argued that existing provisions brought sufficient protection to vulnerable communities. We urged MSPs to back an amendment to the bill to leave out the stirring up offences.

Given the obvious problems with enforcement behind the scenes, we still believe ditching the stirring up hatred offences would be a wise course of action for ministers that will save the government and its criminal justice partners future headaches.

The alternative is a law that’s enforced badly, leading to poor public outcomes, or a law that is unworkable, requiring action by parliamentarians at a later stage.”

An audio recording is included for radio use:

Free to Disagree spokesman Jamie Gillies


Notes for Editors:

The Free to Disagree campaign is supported by: Index on Censorship; Manifesto Club; Adam Smith Institute; Emma Webb, Civitas; Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner; Jim Sillars, former Deputy Leader, SNP; the National Secular Society; The Christian Institute; Network of Sikh Organisations; Freedom Association; Kapil Summan, Editor, Scottish Legal News; Dr Stuart Waiton, sociologist, Abertay University; Madeleine Kearns, journalist. See

For more information contact:

Jamie Gillies: / 07930275255

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