TORY BID TO KILL HATE CRIME BILL
MSPs urged to back call for law to be scrapped
DOUGLAS Ross has pledged to use ‘every tactic’ at his disposal to stop the SNP’s Hate Crime Bill, including forcing a vote at Holyrood.
The Scottish Tories will bring forward a debate this week in a bid to scrap the legislation ‘once and for all’.
MSPs will be urged to back a motion calling for the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill to be ‘withdrawn’ amid widespread outrage at the plans.
On Friday, it emerged that an unprecedented 2,000 submissions had been made to the Scottish parliament’s consultation on the proposed law – with lawyers, police officers, sheriffs and the BBC all raising serious concerns.
SNP ministers have so far refused to scrap the Bill, which could result in jail sentences of up to seven years for those convicted of ‘stirring up’ hatred.
Critics say that it is badly drafted and will undermine freedom of speech, while officers fear the cost of policing it has been grossly underestimated. and this week,
Mr Ross will seek to send a clear message to the Scottish Government that the proposals must be scrapped.
He told the Scottish Daily Mail: ‘The SNP’s Hate Crime Bill is the biggest attack on freedom of speech in Scotland since devolution.
‘One of my first missions as leader of the opposition in Scotland will be to fight this head on. The Scottish Tories will use every tactic at our disposal to stop this legislation in its tracks.’
On Wednesday, the Tories will bring forward a debate on the Bill, forcing a vote on the issue.
Mr Ross said: ‘Opposition parties can unite behind the Scottish Conservatives and stop this awful legislation from the SNP once and for all. Across the political spectrum, everyone from police officers to faith groups, humanists and lawyers thinks this Bill is a disaster waiting to happen. It opens the door to ordinary, decent folk facing the threat of jail for speaking their mind and that cannot be tolerated.’
Mr Ross described the Bill as ‘universally detested’ and compared it to the
SNP’s ‘hated Named Person scheme’ which was scrapped only after a court ruled that parts of it breached rights to privacy and a family life.
It is understood the Tories believe they can get the support of Labour and the Lib Dems but are unsure whether the Scottish Greens would back a motion calling for the Bill to be scrapped.
Jamie Gillies, of the campaign Free to Disagree, said widespread opposition to the plan included ‘those who would be responsible for implementing the new law – the judges and sheriffs’.
He added: ‘A signal from MSPs that they are not willing to progress the stirring up offences section of this legislation would be widely welcomed’.
The Holyrood vote would not be binding but would record official opposition to the proposals.
Dozens of organisations have spoken out against the plan, including the BBC, the Association of Police Superintendents and the Faculty of Advocates.
The Senators of the College of Justice, which represents top judges, highlighted ambiguity in the Bill’s wording.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: ‘We’ll listen, engage and find common ground with those who want people to be protected from the scourge of hate crime while respecting freedom of expression.
‘The parliament can and must come together and parliamentarians have a duty to work together to ensure we do our utmost to protect those who are most vulnerable and targeted by hate.’