Hate Crime Act, Michael Matheson scandal, Cass Review: SNP's 'Masterminds' don't know when their finished – Kenny MacAskill

The ‘New SNP’ are swimming against a tsunami of public opinion on too many issues

“I’ve started, so I’ll finish” as they say on Mastermind when the bell interrupts with the contestant allowed to answer. But for the SNP, the phrase means ploughing on with unpopular legislation, whilst opinion polls keep tumbling downwards. For Nicola Sturgeon, it was gender recognition even when humiliated by being unable to define the gender of a male sex offender.

Now with Humza Yousaf, it's the Hate Crime Act. Pressing on with spin doctors rolling out supporters beholden to the government, yet all whilst public opposition mounts. Common sense and even a modicum of political nous would be seeking a way out. But not for New SNP, whether through arrogance, belief that their virtue-signalling will win out, or simply sheer stupidity. It’s likely a mixture of all three.

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It’s a defining aspect of their tenure and will cost them dear. When the Michael Matheson scandal broke they chose to ride it out, but it hasn’t gone away. It's got worse for them and him. This legislation will be likewise.

People can do strange things under the pressure of a spotlight, be it in a television quiz show or politics (Picture: BBC)People can do strange things under the pressure of a spotlight, be it in a television quiz show or politics (Picture: BBC)
People can do strange things under the pressure of a spotlight, be it in a television quiz show or politics (Picture: BBC)

One arrest too many

I don’t for a minute fear that we’re now living in a police state or that thousands of Scots are about to be huckled by the polis. Some of the hyperbole from opponents is absurd. Legal experts have detailed that’s not going to happen even if they’ve little good to say about it. But there have already been incidents which are cause for concern. Carting law-abiding old ladies off to the police station is appalling. Even if lessons are learned, it's one arrest too many.

My principal objection to this Act was that it was unnecessary. There are existing laws and yet this didn't even cover the main hate crime which is violence against women and girls. So, it was flawed from the outset. But there’s two additional factors that undermine it.

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Firstly, laws must be acceptable to most of the populace. It doesn’t mean that folk have to like them, simply recognise that they’re needed. That applies to most laws, some may be a nuisance and not even popular but there’s a widespread recognition that there’s at least a basis and need for them. That just doesn't apply here.

Those who have been opposing the legislation have done so vociferously and on principle. Meanwhile, most of the population simply holds it in contempt. The complaints about the First Minister himself have folk mocking him and his law. That’s neither a good look for a politician, nor a good place to be for our society or a criminal law.

Glorying in martyrdom

Secondly, laws shouldn’t overburden those who enforce them. Yet, this has left an already pressured police service swamped by needless complaints. Hate crimes will be happening, yet they’ll neither be covered by these laws, nor our police have the resources to deal with them. It’s why the legislation should be repealed.

But on they press. They've ignored numerous junctures at which they could have paused, rolled back or abandoned. Glorying in their martyrdom, believing they’re fighting the good fight as they plummet in the polls. They really are aloof, arrogant and stupid.

As shown by the fallout from the Cass Review, the political tide’s only going in one direction. New SNP are swimming against a tsunami with Humza Yousaf drowning in his own law.

Kenny MacAskill is Alba MP for East Lothian



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