On Wednesday, 3 March, the final amendments for the controversial hate crime bill were lodged by the Scottish Government and opposition parties. MSPs now have a week to review these amendments before deciding the future of freedom of expression in Scotland.

For a bill to become law through the Scottish parliamentary system, any potential legislation must pass through three stages. The first stage establishes the bill’s basic principles, the second stage sees the bill amended and clarified, and the third stage allows MSPs to vote the bill into law. The third stage of the bill will take place on Wednesday, 10 March. See this update for a more detailed summary of the bill’s progression and why it is so important.

As mentioned in our previous Hate Crime and Public Order bill update on the most recent stage of the bill, stage 2 ended without agreement on the crucial freedom of expression clauses. The Scottish Government then lodged an emergency call for evidence in order to come to an agreement on the future of the bill’s freedom of expression clauses. These elements of the bill are vital, as they seek to balance the need to protect against hate and abuse without threatening the freedom to debate and criticise. 

As part of an emergency meeting of Holyrood’s Justice Committee, the Evangelical Alliance gave evidence and contributed to the debate (please see our committee contribution and written evidence submission). We also met with justice secretary Humza Yousaf and other stakeholders from across the debate in order to push for balanced freedom of expression provisions that protect against hatred but also include guarantees on freedom of debate.


Following on from these discussions, the Scottish Government has now lodged its amendments to the bill which include a vital concession on freedom of expression. Humza Yousaf’s amendments to the bill make it clear that criticism and debate, where there is no intention of spreading hatred, would be protected under the bill. The Evangelical Alliance is supportive of this additional clause to the bill, as it would protect people from hatred whilst fostering healthy debate. However, we do not believe this amendment goes far enough; and we argued in our written evidence and our committee contribution for greater definition in the bill on sexual orientation or gender identity. In particular, we still believe that the bill should clarify that holding traditional biblical views on marriage or gender identity could not be seen as hate crime.

Other members of the Scottish parliament have also lodged notable amendments to the bill. Adam Tomkins, the Conservative convener of the Justice Committee, has lodged amendments proposing greater protections for comments made in private, this being backed by the European Convention on Human Rights. Liam Kerr, a Conservative MSP, has lodged a series of amendments to remove key powers of the bill. Johann Lamont, a Labour MSP, has lodged an amendment seeking stricter definitions of the protected characteristic (seeking to clarify it as male or female). 

What can you do?

In the time leading up to the bill’s final vote on Wednesday, 10 March, MSPs will be examining the various amendments lodged and deciding how they will vote on the various elements of the bill. A key way that you can help is by emailing your MSPs and urging them to support amendments that protect the freedom to debate and criticise. 

The Evangelical Alliance is grateful for the Scottish Government’s amendment (Amendment 11) which gives greater protection to freedom of debate, but, as previously mentioned, we do not believe that the clause goes far enough. We are strongly supportive of amendment 11F from Johann Lamont which explicitly argues the importance of the freedom to debate and criticise. Similarly, we are supportive of amendments 1 – 3 from Adam Tomkins which also push for this vital element. The Evangelical Alliance is not supportive of amendment 14 from the Scottish Government, as it seeks to remove the bill’s stronger protections on debate around sexual orientation. 

If you want to get in contact with your MSPs and urge them to support amendments to the bill pushing for protections to freedom of expression, we would suggest you urge them to support amendments 1, 2, 3, and 11F and urge them not to support amendment 14

Please remember to be both courteous and clear when contacting MSPs. You can find your own MSPs and their contact details on the Scottish parliament website.

If you’re unsure how to express your views on this bill, see our template for emailing your MSPs on the bill’s amendments below:

Dear [Insert your MSP’s name], 

I’m writing to you today on the Hate Crime and Public Order bill due to be debated on Wednesday, 10 March. I am a strong supporter of the freedom to debate and criticise and believe that the protections of the bill against hatred must be balanced with protections on freedom of expression. I would urge you to support amendments 1, 2, 3, and 11F to ensure this. I would also urge you to not support amendment 14

Thank you,

Another vital way that you can help us on this bill is through prayer, both for your MSPs as they decide and debate this historic bill and for the parliamentary process at large.