VSS welcomes Hate Crime Bill clarification in Scottish Parliament

23 September, 2020

The Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Humza Yousaf gave a statement to the Scottish Parliament proposing to make changes to the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill to balance protection of vulnerable groups affected by hate crime with people’s rights to freedom of expression.

Following concerns that freedom of expression would be negatively impacted, Mr Yousaf is proposing to amend the legislation by clarifying the language relating to stirring up offences.

If agreed to by Parliament, this would mean a conviction for new offences of ‘stirring up’ hatred would only be possible where it was shown that someone intended to stir up hatred through their actions or behaviour.

Kate Wallace, Chief Executive of Victim Support Scotland, commented:

“We welcome today’s announcement from the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, which acknowledges the concerns that have been brought forward about the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill potentially resulting in censorship and stifling creativity.

“Victim Support Scotland hopes this eases concerns about the implications of the Bill. It should allow a renewed focus on its overall purpose: to tackle offending behaviour, and to give the necessary protections for some of Scotland’s most vulnerable people and groups.

“We know all too well the long lasting and devastating impact hate crime can have on people as it attacks a core part of their identity, and is something that they have no control over. It not only negatively impacts individual victims, but whole communities and marginalised social groups.

“Victims of hate crime have waited a long time for these vital protections, they should not have to wait any longer. Now is the time for Scotland to come together to tackle hate crime.”

Earlier this month, there was a push to halt the Bill’s progress through Parliament and Victim Support Scotland, along with other victim and equalities organisations, called for the scrutiny process to be allowed to continue to allow for victims’ voices to be heard and concerns relating to freedom of speech to be addressed.

Read our call for victims of hate crime to be at the centre of this legislation here.

Whoever you are and whatever the crime, we’re here to help