Introduction & Background

The Scottish Government has now introduced the Hate Crime & Public Order (Scotland) Bill into Holyrood. This bill arrives following a two-year process including the Lord Bracadale review and a further Scottish Government consultation. Having been introduced to parliament the lead Justice Committee has now issued a call for evidence.

You can find all the background information and respond to the call for evidence here: https://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/CurrentCommittees/115038.aspx

The closing date is Friday, 24th July.

The Evangelical Alliance has engaged with this process the whole way through and members will recall some of the previous challenges in this space including the Dear Bigot hate posters in 2018. Our policy team will be submitting a detailed response, but we would also encourage members to respond, in particular to Questions One, Six and Eight of the call for evidence.

What the Bill does

The Scottish Government’s rationale for the bill is explained well by the Justice Committee in their Call for Evidence:

According to the Scottish Government, this Bill provides for the modernising, consolidating and extending of hate crime legislation in Scotland. In its view, legislation in this area has evolved over time in a fragmented manner with the result that different elements of hate crime law are located in different statutes, there is a lack of consistency, and the relevant legislation is not as user-friendly as it could be. In its opinion, the new hate crime legislation will provide greater clarity, transparency and consistency.”

Specifically, Part One of the bill functions as the consolidation piece while Part Two extends the legislation creating a series of new Stirring Up Hatred’ offences.

Why it matters

This bill engages with crucial areas of our public life. While its aim is to protect people being victims of unfair treatment because of a characteristic of their identity, as the bill covers aspects of thought, speech and communication as well as physical conduct, by its nature it then touches on important freedom issues of conscience, thought and speech.

As Christians it’s important to state that we do not wish to see anyone suffer from hatred or be threatened or assaulted because of any aspect of their character or identity and so we recognise the Scottish Government’s intention in introducing this bill. We are a people of love not hatred and so we stand against all forms of hatred and anything that denies the human dignity of any human being.

However there are a number of significant concerns in relation to this bill that if left unchanged could seriously impact on freedom and could damage the very community cohesion that the bill is seeking to promote.

Call for evidence questions and points to use as you respond