Debate calling for repeal of hate crime laws to take place at Holyrood

The debate comes just over two weeks after the Hate Crime and Public Order Scotland Act came into force.

A call for controversial new hate crime laws to be repealed is likely to be defeated at Holyrood.

Scottish Tories have put forward a motion calling for the Hate Crime and Public Order Scotland Act – which only came into force on April 1 – to be repealed.

It comes in the wake of controversy about the legislation, which consolidates existing laws and extends protections against stirring up hatred – which were already in place in terms of racial hatred – to other groups, such as the elderly and disabled.

But opponents of the new laws, who include Harry Potter author JK Rowling, fear its impact on freedom of speech, with the Scottish Government also having come under attack for not including women in the new protected groups.

Police Scotland received just under 9,000 online hate reports in the first two weeks since the introduction of the legislation, with Conservative justice spokesman Russell Findlay saying that the “disastrous hate crime law has caused utter chaos in the fortnight since its introduction”.

He added: “It is proving every bit as unworkable as many critics warned – and must be repealed.”

However First Minister Humza Yousaf accused the Tories of seeking to “whip up misinformation” about the legislation.

He said if it was to be repealed, Scots would have “no protection against hatred whatsoever, neither in terms of statutory aggravators or stirring up offences”.

The First Minister insisted: “That would be not just ludicrous but a disgraceful position for Scotland to be in.”

Labour meanwhile will push for the legislation to be reformed, with justice spokeswoman Pauline McNeill saying “immediate action” is needed to include sex as a “hate crime aggravator”.

She also called for a review of the recording of hate incident reporting to make sure it is compliant with human rights law and prevents the recording of vexatious complaints.

Ms McNeill called for the changes as she claimed the implementation of the new law had been “a disaster from start to finish”.

The Labour MSP said: “The SNP had an opportunity to show that this Act could be sensibly and correctly implemented but instead they have ended up with disastrous messaging such as the Hate Monster campaign while completely failing to resource Police Scotland.

“Two weeks on and the public are none the wiser over what this Bill means, and people are no more protected than before.

“That’s why today Scottish Labour is demanding immediate action to include the protected characteristic of sex as a hate crime aggravator to the Bill, to properly resource Police Scotland and for a new and comprehensive communication strategy to explain what it is that the Bill means for the people of Scotland.”

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