EDINBURGH, Scotland (LifeSiteNews) — Long-delayed hate speech legislation for Scotland will be activated in November once Scottish police are adequately trained and familiar with its complicated policies and frameworks.
The Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill became law on April 23, 2021. The delay in enacting the bill was due to “training, guidance and communications planning.”
Under the unprecedented bill, offenses are considered “aggravated” if they involve prejudice on the basis of age, disability, race, religion, sexual orientation, transgender identity, or variations in sex characteristics. The bill states that crimes motivated by prejudice will be treated more seriously and will not be tolerated by society. Criminal courts can generally take into account any prejudice when sentencing a person.
The Scottish government stated, “Whilst an operational matter for Police Scotland, we welcome any measures being taken to tackle hate crime. The new legal protections that the Hate Crime Act will introduce for people targeted by hate crime, including due to race and disability, will soon be realised while at the same time ensuing freedom of expression is protected.”
In an interview with the BBC in 2020, Humza Yousaf, Scotland’s then justice minister and now first minister, said, “Free speech in itself is never an unfettered right.”
Assistant Chief Constable of the Scottish Police Faroque Hussain embraced the new legislation by stating: “Our training package has been developed in close consultation with diversity staff associations to ensure all protected characteristics under the new act are clearly represented and articulated, and that officers are best prepared when they respond to hate crimes and incidents. We want everyone targeted by hate crime… to have confidence to come forward, assured they will be treated with respect and dignity, and the circumstances they report will be fully investigated.”
The sinister infringements on freedom of speech comes at a time in Scotland when the police force is already stretched due to Scottish National Party (SNP) budget cuts. Scottish Conservative MSP Russell Findlay believes the new law will be a new burden on the overstrained police force.
“Scotland’s under-pressure police officers lack basic kit due to SNP budget cuts, so demanding that they now enforce this flawed SNP legislation is a mistake,” Finlay said.
“Humza Yousaf’s dangerous hate crime law erodes free speech and has already been delayed due to difficulties facing the police. The Scottish Conservatives would ditch it altogether, instead freeing up officers to keep our communities safe.”
East Lothian MP Kenny MacAskill, Deputy Leader of the Alba Party, believes resources would be better spent on crime prevention.
“Maybe resources should continue to address domestic violence and the other curses that blight our land, not seek new vogues for a demanding few,” he stated.
Critics and campaigners have called the new hate speech legislation an attack on freedom of expression and believe it will have a “chilling effect” on free speech.
Helen Joyce, an Irish journalist, author, and director of the human rights group Sex Matters, said: “The establishment of a new, dedicated hate crime unit at Police Scotland sends a sinister message to those who advocate for women’s and children’s rights. People need to be able to speak the truth about sex to stand up for their own rights and to carry out safeguarding. Women can’t explain why so-called ‘trans women’ shouldn’t be allowed to compete in women’s sports without saying that, as a matter of material reality, ‘trans women’ are men.”
Joyce added, “Are we going to see teachers who say that boys who identify as girls can’t go into the girls’ changing rooms pursued by this new police unit? If ‘misgendering’ counts as a hate crime, then people who simply speak the truth risk a criminal record, and it is chilling to think that a dedicated police unit will be now pursuing people who are acting in the best interests of women and children.”
Scottish campaign group Women Won’t Wheesht (i.e. be silent) responded to the Hate Crime Act by saying: “Last month, we noted the absurd situation of a man being charged for shouting an insult at a politician, whilst a different man received no charges for a violent assault on a woman at one of our events. Hate Crime legislation seems to offer a perverse incentive to police to pursue hurtful words but not violent conduct. We remain disappointed that sex was not included within the new hate crime bill, as it would have meant that the police would have been more likely to charge perpetrators of violent assault against women.”
Current statistics from Police Scotland indicate a 10.4 per cent drop in hate crimes for 2023, with 1,653 reported cases compared to 1,845 in the previous year, according to Scottish Legal News.
Lorcan Price, a barrister and legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom International, pointed out the dangerous implications of the bill: “Say your friend made a joke in private that you found offensive. The possibility would be there to prosecute.”