The Scotsman

Holy­rood move to ditch Hate Crime laws

● Tories to bring mo­tion in Par­lia­ment ● Con­cerns over free­dom of ex­pres­sion

- By SCOTT MACNAB Po­lit­i­cal Edi­tor

A Holy­rood bid to ditch con­tro­ver­sial plans to in­tro­duce new Hate Crime laws in Scot­land is to come be­fore MSPS this week.

The leg­is­la­tion has met with wide­spread con­cerns that it will sti­fle free­dom of speech, al­though sup­port­ers in­sist the move is needed to de­fend mi­nor­ity groups from at­tack.

The Tories will press a mo­tion in Holy rood to­mor­row, calling on the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment to with­draw the Bill - which has al­ready at­tracted a host of crit­i­cism.

Con­cerns over the Bill has cen­tred on plans for a new of­fence of “stir­ring up ha­tred”, with op­po­nents con­cerned this will sti­fle free­dom of ex­pres­sion.

With op­po­si­tion par­ties be­ing given de­bat­ing time at Holy­rood again, the Tories will at­tempt to put more pres­sure on the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment - with Tory leader Dou­glas Ross urg­ing min­is­ters to “go back to the draw­ing board”.

Jus­tice Sec­re­tary Humza Yousaf has al­ready told MSPS he will con­sider whether changes need to be made to the Bill, say­ing he has noted the “par­tic­u­lar con­cerns” that have been raised.

While some or­gan­i­sa­tions such as the Equal­ity Net­work and Vic­tim Sup­port Scot­land have spo­ken in favour of the Hate Crime and Pub­lic Or­der (Scot­land) Bill, the Tories say there are “clear flaws” in the pro­pos­als.

Mr Ross said: “What­ever the orig­i­nal good in­ten­tions of this Bill were, the breadth and depth of op­po­si­tion to its clear flaws are to o strong for the SNP to try to force it through.

“We can not al­low such a bla­tant at­tack on free­dom of speech in Scot­land to progress any fur­ther. “

The Scot­tish Tory leader, who will not be able to take part in the de­bate as he does not cur­rently have a seat in Holy rood, added :“Ev­ery­one agrees on the need for leg­is­la­tion to tackle hate crime in Scot­land.

“But by try­ing to fix a doomed Bill that clearly needs to be re­worked, we’re wast­ing time that the Par­lia­ment needs to hold the S NP Gov­ern­ment to ac­count on care home death sand their do­mes­tic record.”

The Mo­ray MP, has called on the other op­po­si­tion par ties at Holy­rood to unite with the Tories in mov­ing for the bill to be dropped.

“The Hate Crime Bill is too im­por­tant to al­low it to progress with th­ese at­tacks on free speech,” Mr Ross added. “The SNP must with­draw it and go back to the draw­ing board.”

Lib­eral Demo­crat jus­tice spokesman Liam Mcarthur said while his party is “sup­port­ive of the over­all aim of up­dat­ing hate crime law” there are “sig­nif­i­cant flaws” with pro­vi­sions on “stir­ring up ha­tred”. Mr Mcarthur said: “For this Bill to re­ceive the sup­port of the Scot­tish Lib­eral De­moc rats, th­ese is­sues need to be ad­dressed and the J us­tice Sec­re­tary must agree to re­move any po­ten­tial threat to free and open de­bate .“

He added: “We re­main com­mit­ted to work­ing with min­is­ters and oth­ers to help de­liver leg­is­la­tion that is ef­fec­tive but strikes the proper bal­ance in this com­plex and sen­si­tive area of law.”

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