MSPs back general principles of Hate Crime Bill at Holyrood

Justice secretary 'delighted' controversial Bill has passed its first stage.

MSPs back general principles of Hate Crime Bill at Holyrood Getty Images

MSPs have backed the general principles of the Scottish Government’s Hate Crime Bill.

The Bill passed the first stage at Holyrood by 91 votes to 29, with one abstention.

Justice secretary Humza Yousaf, who has been urged to go further in making changes to the legislation, said he was “delighted” by the outcome.

He said: “I look forward to working together to strengthen the law to tackle hate crime in a way that protects the rights of everyone to live their lives free from fear or harm while protecting rights to freedom of expression.”

Yousaf – who announced several changes to the proposals after concerns had been raised – told MSPs he would continue to have an “open mind” to future changes.

On Monday, it was confirmed a number of recommendations were accepted ahead of Tuesday’s debate.

The Scottish Government said there would be a strengthening of the protection for freedom of expression provisions in the legislation.

Ministers would also propose new limits on police powers of search and entry within the Bill, and the Scottish Government confirmed it would seek to remove entirely Section 5 from the Bill – which deals with offences relating to possession of inflammatory materials.

However, Scottish Conservative justice spokesman Liam Kerr, who voted against the Bill, said: “Genuine hate crime must always be punished, but this law goes too far.

“Our fundamental right to freedom of speech remains under threat.”

He added: “As we said before the parliamentary debate, mere tinkering is not enough and the SNP needs to understand that.  

“This Bill is fundamentally flawed and not fit for purpose. Such threats to freedom of speech cannot become law.”


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