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Op-ed: The Scottish Hate Crime Bill needs to be repealed urgently

Scotland has passed a controversial Bill that many people believe to be a direct threat to free speech. MSPs have backed the Bill, which passed by 82 votes in March 2021.

The legislation seems to combine existing free speech laws and extend protections for groups deemed to be ‘marginalised’ whilst creating a new offence of ‘stirring up hatred’.

The Bill covers all current protected characteristics – including religion, gender, race and sexual orientation – except sex, to protect transgender identity.

There has been a significant backlash to this, from groups from all walks of life. Religious groups, journalists, writers and even police have raised concerns about the impact it could have on freedom of expression.

The Scottish Government reiterated that ‘stirring up hatred’ would only be considered an offence if it was intentional.

This Bill needs to be repealed urgently. The existing laws that Scotland had already provided a satisfactory response to alleged ‘hate speech’ but this law could have dangerous, chilling effects on the future of freedom of speech in Scotland.

One of the more particularly troubling aspects of this bill is the fact that it extends to the home. The previous law had a “dwelling defence” clause, meaning that you could not be prosecuted for alleged hate speech in the privacy of your own home. This new Bill scraps that.

This is a worrying sign. Why should anybody – especially the government – get to decide what can and can’t be said in the privacy of your own home? Is the government the gatekeeper of morality, deciding what can and can’t be said?

Removing protections of the home environment means there is no safe haven for free expression. If I were to say something to somebody in my own home, that the legislation deems at ‘stirring up hatred’, I could be reported and arrested. A line has been clearly crossed. It’s simply too much power for the government to have.

The Christian Institute discussed the Bill. Video credit: The Christian Institute

Scottish Conservative justice spokesman Liam Kerr said there was “inherent ambiguity” in the language of the legislation, and he is correct. Ambiguity can easily lead to weaponisation.

Another issue that should be addressed is the lack of protection for the characteristic of sex. In a society of self-identification where sex and gender are apparently entirely subjective, malleable and flexible to suit a person’s worldview, the lack of protection for the sex characteristic is a clear indication of the impact transgender ideology and lobbying is having on the Scottish government.

The LGBT community already finds itself in the midst of an ideological civil war, particularly between lesbians and transgender women, where sex and gender are thrown in question.

If a woman (who was born a woman) does not feel comfortable sharing a space where vulnerability is paramount (such as a changing room) with a transgender woman, would she be committing a hate crime? Could she prosecuted for expressing her views on sex?

According to a report by the BBC, 0.5% of adults in Scotland identify as transgender. Why then, should biological sex be relegated to a simple emotion at the expense of the other 99.5%?

Logic dictates that biology determines sex, but the Hate Crime Bill has other ideas. Biological sex – and the social norms and attitudes thereof – have been sacrificed for intolerant ideological bigotry. This is not only about social settings, but academic freedom also.

MP for South of Scotland Michelle Ballantyne voices her disapproval of the Bill.

If somebody were to release a study which scrutinises or challenges transgender identity or ideology, it would be as simple as using the Bill’s ambiguous nature to prove that a person was ‘stirring up hatred’, and to remove the study from the academic arena.

The nature of this is similar to fascist and dictatorial regimes in history. Hitler’s Nazi regime had a strict ban of pro-Jewish and anti-Regime literature, and many people faced fines, exiles or even death for dissent. Books were burned publicly, and literature having a pro-democratic or pacifist nature were targeted for destruction.

This Bill is simply a ‘soft’ version of this. The Scottish Government has no business calling itself democratic when a person can be prosecuted from what they say in the privacy of their own home.

It is state-controlled media and speech through the back door, under the guise of ‘preventing hatred’. It is, effectively, a secular blasphemy law.

Scottish comedian Leo Kearse expresses his views on the Hate Crime Bill. Video credit: Leo Kearse

The ultimate conclusion of this Bill is segregation. It is a power-hungry, intolerant and bigoted piece of legislation that will have wider consequences that some willingly choose to ignore for the sake of pandering to minority groups. It is the most authoritarian Bill Scotland has ever seen. The nation chooses not to fight against this at their peril.

This Bill seeks to protect minorities, but in doing so has sacrificed and betrayed the majority.

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Aaron Fenton-Hewitt is an aspiring journalist and political commentator. He holds a Bachelor's degree in Film from London Metropolitan University, and a Master's in Writing for Creative and Professional Practice from Middlesex University. He wishes to continue his academic career, with a PhD in Politics or related field.

Aaron is also a freelance photographer, an avid foodie and an Arsenal supporter.

Aaron Fenton-Hewitt
Aaron Fenton-Hewitt is an aspiring journalist and political commentator. He holds a Bachelor's degree in Film from London Metropolitan University, and a Master's in Writing for Creative and Professional Practice from Middlesex University. He wishes to continue his academic career, with a PhD in Politics or related field. Aaron is also a freelance photographer, an avid foodie and an Arsenal supporter.

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