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Conservative bid to repeal hate speech law that made Scotland an international laughingstock fails

Conservative bid to repeal hate speech law that made Scotland an international laughingstock fails

 


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The Scottish Conservatives sought to overturn a controversial new hate speech law on Wednesday, saying its passage made Scotland an “international laughingstock”.

The Scottish Parliament voted to retain the Hate Crime and Public Order Act after a challenge from the Scottish Conservatives, who cited concerns that its vague wording, broad coverage and potentially selective enforcement could be disastrous for ordinary people.

Sky News reported Scottish Conservative politician Russell Findlay MSP had argued that the new law “transformed Scotland into an international laughingstock” and warned it was a “disaster on paper, and it's a disaster in reality”.

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Humza Yousaf

Scotland's First Minister, Humza Yousaf, is credited with being a driving force behind the hate speech bill that has made international news. (Photo by Robert Perry – Pool/Getty Images)

JK Rowling, author of the Harry Potter franchise, made international headlines when she tested the implementation of hate speech laws by criticizing transgender ideology. While the Scottish government and Police stepped back and claimed the law allows such speech, others, both for and against the law, suspected it was a case of selective enforcement.

Citing Rowling's challenge, Findlay continued: “But what might happen to those without her money and power? Even if prosecution is unlikely, being the subject of an investigation can be frightening, divisive, humiliating and financially costly.” .Police arriving at your home or workplace, handcuffed, phone confiscated, forced to pay for a stigmatizing lawyer and damaging personal reputation and employment prospects.

Police Scotland has reportedly been inundated with thousands of complaints since the law came into effect on April 1.

“This is about rejecting partition by turning the Scottish against the Scottish [tattle] to friends, colleagues and family,” said Findlay. “And based on the evidence, we were right to vote against this law three years ago. And based on the evidence, we are right that today we demand its abolition”.

Scottish politician Russell Findlay

Scottish Conservative politician Russell Findlay is one of the many critics of the hate speech bill. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

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Scotland's most senior politician, First Minister Humza Yousaf, who is credited with getting the bill through parliament, derided the attempt to repeal it as “frankly dangerous”, noting before the debate that it was “very certain” that it would be rejected.

“If we repealed the hate crime act, we would have virtually no protection against hate for people here in Scotland because of their race or their religion or their sexual orientation or their disability or their transgender identity, Yousaf said, according to Sky. News. “So repealing what would almost give carte blanche to people in Scotland would send a signal to people in Scotland, to that minority that indulges in hate, that in fact their hate was acceptable.”

“And that's what the Conservatives want to try to bring to parliament. It's shameful. It's dangerous,” he added.

The text of the bill, first introduced years ago, warns against acts that “incite hatred” against different groups based on different identities, such as being transgender. The maximum penalty for violating this new law is seven years in prison.

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Scottish Parliament explanatory notes under the law they say Scots can be prosecuted for sharing offensive rhetoric by “displaying, publishing or distributing the material eg on a board; online via websites, blogs, podcasts, social media etc., directly, or forwarding or repeating material originating from a third party through print media such as magazine publications or leaflets, etc.

“Giving, sending, displaying or playing material to another person, e.g. via webcast, via email, playing a video, via public display of a show, etc.

“Making the material available to another person in any way eg through spoken word, written word, electronic communication, etc. either directly (as the creator of the material), or by forwarding or reproducing the material.”

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