It is “vital” that “concrete changes” are made to the Scottish Government’s Hate Crime Bill, a Christian advocacy group has said.
The call comes after a Conservative attempt to ditch the controversial new hate crime legislation was voted down in the Scottish Parliament last week.
A motion from the party’s justice spokesman Liam Kerr proposed removing the forthcoming Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill and drafting new legislation.
Critics say the Bill’s new offences relating to ‘stirring up hatred’ could stifle freedom of expression and the Catholic bishops of Scotland have raised concerns that possessing the Bible could become an offence under the proposed legislation.
However, last week MSPs voted by 31 to 30 for an amendment which would instead “improve” the Bill.
Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf acknowledged there were “legitimate concerns” about the Bill which would be addressed in the coming months.
Mr Kerr said a wide range of groups had responded to a Scottish Government consultation on the Bill. “It is clear a significant number of those raised concerns about the stirring up offences and the potential chilling effect on freedom of speech.”
Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser also criticising the Bill, saying he had “grave concerns about what is called cancel culture and the attempt to close down debate.
“Now we see feminists like Germaine Greer and JK Rowling becoming victims of a mob who are not prepared to permit debate, even though what they are saying is simply a biological fact on the question of gender.”
Christian Action Research & Education (CARE) said the Scottish Government’s acknowledgement of concerns over the Bill was welcomed but changes must be made.
“It’s vital concrete changes are made,” said James Mildred, CARE’s head of communications. “This bill could lead to precious and fundamental freedoms being eroded
“At CARE, we think the bill is unnecessary because existing laws already address the issues the proposed bill is seeking to address.
“Given the vast amount of concern expressed by so many across society, it would still be better in our view for the bill to be withdrawn.”
Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf defended the Bill, saying the ‘stirring up’ offence had existed in Scots law in relation to racial hatred since the 1980s and had not caused controversy.
“I am given protection over people stirring up hatred by making comments about the colour of my skin; why shouldn’t the protections be given to people who are gay, or disabled.”
Picture: A general view of graffiti on a wall. (PA).