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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

https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/columnists/scotlands-hate-cri...

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

Views: 145

Replies to This Discussion

I suspect that the Scottish left have just followed Erdogan's philosophy and applied it to Nationalism: "It's like a bus. You use it to get to the stop you want, then you get off".

That's always been the way with Leftist groups. For example, Sinn Fein in Ireland hates the British, but is all for the importation of Muslims. The Fabian philosophy was also about getting incremental changes until the society was transformed and could not return to what it was.

The Muslim Brotherhood was inspired by Fascism/Nazism, which were in turn inspired by Fabianism.  They were all revolutionary projects that decided the revolution could be effected over a period of decades, so that people would not perceive it happening. Each step of the way is protected viciously to stop it being unwound.

Alan Lake said:

I suspect that the Scottish left have just followed Erdogan's philosophy and applied it to Nationalism: "It's like a bus. You use it to get to the stop you want, then you get off".

Note what the stupid Conservative has to say:

"As I have rehearsed before, there is nothing especially controversial in Part One of the legislation, which simply introduces sentencing aggravators for pre-existing crimes when they are motivated by hatred of a protected characteristic."

So the Conservatives are all in favour of hate-speech laws, they just think SNP have gone too far. 

Antony said:

More
"Yousaf, however, sees it as his mission not only to stamp out hatred in Scotland but to stamp out the ideas that underlie it. It’s a noble sentiment in the abstract"

Joe said:

Note what the stupid Conservative has to say:

"As I have rehearsed before, there is nothing especially controversial in Part One of the legislation, which simply introduces sentencing aggravators for pre-existing crimes when they are motivated by hatred of a protected characteristic."

So the Conservatives are all in favour of hate-speech laws, they just think SNP have gone too far. 

Antony said:

"The Fabian philosophy was also about getting incremental changes until the society was transformed and could not return to what it was."
That's it in a nutshell Joe.
The society appears to slowly evolve into something better as old values are eroded and covered by apparently better values, such as absolute equality in all things. Sounds good in theory but does not work practically.
The world would have to be full of idealists that agreed on every issue. We are not like that, I am not like that, human nature is not like that.
Did these universal-brotherhood-socialists ever look at the world around them and the raw brutality of how real people really behave.
Why must we constantly defend our lives and property? In civilised countries with laws and in uncivilised countries with weapons.
The Fabian-ics believe that perfect considerate beings can be manufactured through nurture. Nature just does not give a damn, there the defenseless are exterminated.

Not limited to Scotland - but I'll put this here ; https://www.breitbart.com/europe/2021/03/16/britain-takes-another-s...

1. SP Freedom of Speech
Any speech is allowed - except that advocating the end of these freedoms(4F).

Making a law that makes it illegal to voice an opinion is a crime in itself.

What are the basic laws in society that are designed to protect persons and property from physical harm? Do we need laws to protect people from being simply offended?

No we don't need such laws.

I'm amazed at the historical ignorance of the Left and SJWs that advocate for those so-called hate crime laws.

Morgoth covers the Act at about the 25 min mark ; https://www.bitchute.com/video/kGcjc3q9md45/

It's not ignorance. Everything the Left champions is only championed because it takes them to the next stage of power. Once more power is achieved anything previously championed can be abandoned.

So Bolsheviks championed gay rights until the Bolsheviks had power. Once they had power they criminalised homosexuality again.

I believe that this behaviour ultimately can be traced back to Islam. The Left learned from the life of Mohammed.

Alan Lake said:

No we don't need such laws.

I'm amazed at the historical ignorance of the Left and SJWs that advocate for those so-called hate crime laws.

The people that could solve the Muslim question are unlikely to gain enough power by democratic means. Wilders just now in Holland did not get enough votes and the other parties in European countries most often form coalitions that keep the far-right out of power. It seems like the masse,s that are well aware of the threats to their way of life and well-being, for some reason always when given the chance for change choose the safe (cowardly) way out and vote for moderates and weaklings.

Well mostly you get what you deserve and ask for in life so the white working class can thank themselves for their misery. (overeat and entertain themselves to death).

Just vote right and confront the moral bullying and all of our problems would  be removed.

In times of crisis leaders are supposed to arise, but I guess things have to get a whole lot worse first, really get as bad as it can get !

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