Tories launch bid to repeal Scotland's controversial new hate crime law

The party said the legislation is ‘proving every bit as unworkable as many critics warned’

A bid to repeal Scotland’s controversial new hate crime law is to be launched in the Scottish Parliament this week.

The Tories will use their party business slot at Holyrood on Wednesday to debate the legislation and force a vote calling for it to be ditched.

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It comes amid ongoing controversy over the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act.

Humza YousafHumza Yousaf
Humza Yousaf
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Police have been inundated with thousands of complaints since the law took effect on April 1, and there are concerns over its impact on freedom of expression.

Lord Hope of Craighead, one of Scotland’s most senior legal figures, previously condemned it as “unworkable”.

However, First Minister Humza Yousaf has strongly backed the law and accused some opponents of spreading “misinformation” about it.

Tory justice spokesman Russell Findlay said the legislation is placing an intolerable strain on Scotland’s overstretched police.

The SNP-Green majority at Holyrood means the motion to repeal the Hate Crime Act will almost certainly fall, but the Tories are appealing for other opposition parties and “more sensible nationalists” to back their position.

Mr Findlay said: “Humza Yousaf’s disastrous hate crime law has caused utter chaos in the fortnight since its introduction. It is proving every bit as unworkable as many critics warned – and must be repealed.

“As well as being an unacceptable risk to free speech, it is taking a huge toll on Scotland’s police officers. They're being deluged with thousands of complaints – many of them vexatious from individuals out to settle scores.

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“Officer numbers are at their lowest level since 2008, and the police were already turning a blind eye to certain crimes, so this increased workload is completely unsustainable.

“The Scottish Conservatives were the only party to oppose the SNP legislation when it went through parliament. We now appeal to Labour and Lib Dem MSPs – and the more sensible nationalists – to admit they made a huge mistake and back our call for its repeal.”

The Tory motion reads: “That the Scottish Parliament believes that the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act 2021 should be repealed.”

Speaking to journalists at the STUC annual congress in Dundee, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said problems around the implementation and communication of the Act should be fixed and the issue is more complex than a “simple repeal”.

He said the law should be updated urgently to include sex and misogyny. Mr Sarwar said: “The implementation of this has been an absolute disaster. And I don’t believe that what the government has implemented is actually reflective of the wishes or the intentions of the parliament.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The Hate Crime Act helps to tackle the harm caused by hatred and prejudice and provide greater protection for people in society and communities who face hatred just because of who they are.

“It does not prevent people expressing controversial, challenging or offensive views – nor does it seek to stifle criticism or rigorous debate in any way and the right to freedom of expression is built into the Act. Police Scotland has been clear that demand continues to be managed within its contact centres and the impact on frontline policing has been minimal.”



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