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Scotland's Hate Crime and Public Order Bill must not stifle free speech – Murdo Fraser MSP

As MSPs consider the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill, they should remember to protect people’s right to hold unpopular opinions and to say the ‘wrong’ things, writes Murdo Fraser MSP.

Tuesday, 28th April 2020, 4:45 pm
With so much focus on the vital task of tackling the current Covid-19 pandemic and all its consequences, it is easy to forget there is other important Government and Parliamentary business progressing. One such example of this is the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill, published by the Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf on Friday.

The Bill seeks to modernise, consolidate, and extend existing hate crime law to ensure that, in the words of the Justice Secretary, “it is fit for the 21st century”. It builds on Lord Bracadale’s recent review of existing hate crime legislation, a detailed and thorough piece of work that rewards serious study.

The whole concept of hate crimes is in itself controversial, and the policy memorandum that accompanies the draft Bill recognises this. The majority of individuals who responded to the Scottish Government’s consultation on the issue were not supportive of hate crime laws at all, arguing that they restrict freedom of expression, and create a hierarchy of victims. There was, however, support for the principle of hate crime laws and their modernisation amongst organisations who responded, partly on the grounds that these “send a clear message about unacceptable conduct.

One provision of the new Bill which I welcome is the abolition of the common law offence of blasphemy. This is a law which has fallen into disuse, having last been prosecuted in Scotland in 1843. It has always seemed to me bizarre that the power of the Christian message would require man-made laws to protect or defend it.

It was only a generation ago that the Monty Python film “The Life of Brian” faced accusations of blasphemy, leading to protests outside cinemas. Indeed, Glasgow civic leaders of the time banned it from being shown at any venue within the city.

That some Christians were offended by the satirical representation of the life of Jesus was undoubtedly true at the time; but there should be no right in law not to be offended by what another person says or does. That principle applies to religions, and it should apply equally to other “protected groups” within the definition of the hate crime legislation.

Criticism of same-sex relationships

In this context, the provisions of the new Bill likely to prove most controversial are those that lead to new offences of “stirring up hatred”. At present these apply only in relation to racial hatred, but the proposal is that they should be extended to apply to all groups defined by reference to age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, transgender identity, and variations in sex characteristics.

Lord Bracadale defines this as follows: “stirring up hatred is conduct which encourages others to hate a particular group…the intention of the perpetrator is that hatred of the group as a whole is aroused in other persons”, Crucially, it would not be necessary for the prosecution to prove that there was an ‘intent’ on the part of an accused person to stir up hatred, rather that, having regards to all the circumstances, hatred in relation to a particular characteristic is “likely to be stirred up thereby”.

This raises all sorts of issues. For example, could a Christian pastor or an Islamic scholar expressing disapproval of same-sex relationships be found guilty of stirring up hatred towards the LGBT community? The issue is not simply an abstract one. Just within the last few weeks, the American evangelist Franklin Graham, son of the famous Billy Graham, had his booking for a rally at the SECC cancelled following concerns raised by Glasgow City Council, with his opposition to same-sex marriage being one of the factors quoted to justify the decision.

Such concerns were raised by a large number of respondents to the Government’s consultation. In response, the Bill does include provisions to protect freedom of expression in certain circumstances. It specifically permits discussions or criticisms of religions, and of sexual conduct or practices, making it clear that people will still have the right to express their views both on religions’ beliefs and practices, or a change of religion, and also on particular sexual practices. While this is welcome, Parliamentarians will need to carefully consider whether these protections go far enough in order to protect free speech, and whether they have sufficient breadth in scope.

Transgender debate

One of the most bitterly contested areas of public policy at present is the whole issue of transgender rights, and the perceived conflict with the rights of women, a debate so toxic that it has, on occasion, descended into violence, and led to the ‘no-platforming’ of prominent feminists at a number of universities and in other contexts.

One target for the transgender rights activists is the writer and broadcaster Germaine Greer, who has been vocal in her view (a statement of biological fact) that: “transgender women are not women”. It is a view that has been taken up by other campaigners concerned about reforms to the Gender Recognition Act.

Would a statement that transgender women are not women amount to a stirring up of hatred against transgender individuals, in terms of the new legislation? In such a case, the prosecution would not require to prove ‘intent’ to stir up hatred, but simply that it was “likely to be stirred up thereby”. The protections put in place to allow free speech in relation to both religion and sexual practices do not apply in relation to the protected characteristic of transgender identity, and accordingly would not be available in such circumstances.

What is clear from all of this is that this is a piece of legislation that will require detailed and thorough scrutiny by Parliamentarians to fully consider what the likely consequences would be. In particular, at the forefront of our minds must be the protection of free speech.

According to the satirist Andrew Doyle’s creation Titania McGrath, the High Priestess of woke, “nobody is going to prevent anyone from saying the right things, so it stands to reason that the only people who require free speech are those who are planning on saying the ‘wrong’ things”.

It is precisely because, in a free society, we need to protect people’s right to hold unpopular opinions and express them, and to say the wrong things, that legislation on hate crime needs to be fair and balanced. The current national crisis should not prevent us from having the opportunity to scrutinise these proposals thoroughly.

Murdo Fraser is a Scottish Conservative MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife

Tags: -, Humza, Justice, Scotland's, Secretary, Yousaf, crime, hate, legislation, new, More…under

Views: 313

Replies to This Discussion

"Lord Bracadale defines this as follows: “stirring up hatred is conduct which encourages others to hate a particular group…the intention of the perpetrator is that hatred of the group as a whole is aroused in other persons”,
(What about expressing your disapproval of something on purely rational grounds, or because you find it offensive, without hatred?)
If you say you dislike cats is it your fault someone else hates and mistreats cats?
" In response, the Bill does include provisions to protect freedom of expression in certain circumstances."(In other words seek legal advice before you express an opinion about anything). An artist cannot possibly function unless he is a law unto himself in his expression. In communist Russia no one dared to freely express an opinion and all art was subject to party approval. The whole idea that a Philosopher could be restricted by political correctness is ridiculous.
These hate-crime laws are just a new form of persecution; burning at the stake, witch hunting and book burning. Their objective is to enforce submission to a uniformity of thought and belief.
There is some leniency in criticism of religion and sexual practices, but do not try to discuss race or immigration.
"and the truth shall NOT make you free,"
"It is precisely because, in a free society, we need to protect people’s right to hold unpopular opinions and express them, and to say the wrong things, that legislation on hate crime needs to be fair and balanced."
Should read-
"It is precisely because, in a free society, we need to protect people’s right to hold unpopular opinions and express them, and to say the wrong things, that legislation on hate crime needs to be discarded.
It is all empty phrases by people that have given up on thinking.

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf. (Will give priority to islamic interests).
In Norway there is a saying that you do not set a goat to guard a sack of oats. "sette bukken til å passe havresekken". fox guarding the hen house.

Scottish "Nationalists" banning the free speech of Scots people ! - from the , er "Scotsman" Humza Yousef.

The Scots and Irish used to be fiercely nationalist, but I guess that applied only against British rule. They seem to be cheerfully giving away their nations now.

.....“stirring up hatred” based on “age, disability, race, religion, sexual orientation, transgender identity and variations in sex characteristics.”.....
Discrimination does not have to be hatred, it can be a normal and healthy reaction to a threat against your wellbeing.
These laws are a means to avoid facing up to the very real threat of Muslim immigration and the growth of Islamic power.

-“Stirring up of hatred can contribute to a social atmosphere in which discrimination is accepted as normal,” Yousaf said. “Our legislation, if passed, would offer greater protection for those who experience this kind of behaviour."-
Discrimination is the only means the Nation has to protect its integrity. The laws of political correctness spell the doom of any nation.
How can you ban Hatred ?

The Islamic use of our open society and non-discriminatory institutions to take over our society, control our speech and ultimately suppress our entire non-Muslim culture - is so transparent, yet the Lefties and progressives don't see it and still cling blindly to their fantasy conceptions of 'the other'. 

Humza Yousaf wearing a tartan tie, what's that supposed to mean ?  He can never be a Scot any more than I can call myself Norwegian. I regard anyone calling themselves English without the DNA to prove it an insult to my ancestors.
"...see actors and directors prosecuted if a play they perform is considered to contain a hate crime." -They already get punished if the cast of a production does not have a diverse cast. All white casts are seldom these days. Pieces that are not multi-ethnic are already condemned as hate-crimes.
I really do hate religion, so lock me away.
‘stirring up hatred’ -premeditated hatred LOL
"....the 2006 Racial and Religious Hatred Act, which made it a crime to ‘stir up religious hatred’ in England and Wales" -why are all of the Imams not in prison ?
".....behaving in ‘a threatening, abusive or insulting manner’ towards a native Briton is unlikely to get anyone prosecuted.
‘Islam is a terrorist religion’, -is a simple statement of fact not a hate-crime.
A lot of hatred has been spewed out from the pulpets of Christian churches.
"Facebook describes the urgent need for AI that can identify “hateful memes” thusly: “In order for AI to become a more effective tool for detecting hate speech, it must be able to understand content the way people do: holistically. "
"In related news, Facebook recently appointed a left-wing activist who insulted the President of the United States’ 14-year-old son for his first name to its “Supreme Court” Oversight Board, which will be in charge of deciding what content will be removed from the platform."
People like Zuckerberg, Geldof and the like really believe that they are a force for good in this world. What they are really doing is showing their lack of character. The whole purpose of their being is to be faultless. They are in reality just boring moralists and despots.
They have no faith in the ability of people to choose good of their own accord, that they have to be forced to be good. You cannot force an evil person to be good. Most people, left alone, just want to behave decently anyway. And they want to control their own lives.

The people voting in favour of a hate-crime bill are the sort that want to control other peoples lives. Any law that is not directly concerned with the protection of life and property is questionable. Hating someone or something is not a crime, only causing physical harm to someone's person or property is a crime. Offending someone is not a crime.


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