Scotland’s ancient blasphemy law branded a ‘stain’ on rights

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Scotland’s centuries-old law on blasphemy should be axed amid concerns the country is being left behind by the rest of the world on human rights, according to campaigners.

Humanist Society Scotland have written to Scottish Government cabinet secretaries Aileen Campbell and Humza Yousaf to call for Scotland’s common law offence against blasphemy to be dropped in coming legislation covering hate crime.

Stock image of a Christian Cross. Calls have been made to end Scotland's 'archaic' blasphemy laws

Stock image of a Christian Cross. Calls have been made to end Scotland's 'archaic' blasphemy laws

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It has already been abolished in England and Wales, but the Scottish Government has stopped short of a similar approach north of the Border.

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The last recorded case was 170 ago, It is argued the law is effectively meaningless in a pluralistic society like modern Scotland where there is no “established church” whose doctrines are formally acknowledged in law.

But the letter from Humanist Society chief executive Gordon MacRae says the retention of blasphemy on the statute book is a “stain on Scotland’s overall positive human rights record”.

He said: “Scotland is one of the last remaining countries in Europe with a blasphemy law still on its books after Ireland recently voted by referendum to scrap this archaic crime.”

Mr MacRae added: There is no rationale for retaining this law.”

Campaigners feel that while the laws stand, Scotland is in no position to lobby for human rights in other countries, such as Pakistan or Indonesia, where blasphemy can still lead to execution or jail.