Scottish Conservatives launch attempt to repeal the Hate crime bill

Humza Yousaf is facing a vote at Holyrood to repeal his “disastrous” hate crime laws amid warnings that a deluge of complaints is placing an intolerable strain on Police Scotland.

MSPs are to be asked to admit they made a mistake and back a Scottish Tory motion proposing that the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act be repealed barely a fortnight after it came into force.

Russell Findlay, the Tories’ shadow justice secretary, said thousands of complaints tabled under the legislation were straining the country’s “overstretched” Police.

He warned the “increased workload is completely unsustainable” for the force, with officer numbers at their lowest level since 2008 and a new policy being introduced to turn a “blind eye to certain crimes”.

The motion is unlikely to pass when MSPs vote on it on Wednesday as the Tories were the only party to oppose the legislation during its passage at Holyrood in 2021. The SNP-Green coalition government has a majority.

However, if some of their backbenchers rebel, it will likely ramp up pressure on Mr Yousaf and Anas Sarwar, the Scottish Labour leader, to think again.

Mr Yousaf oversaw the passage of the hate crime law at Holyrood when he was justice secretary in Nicola Sturgeon’s government. However, it did not come into force until April 1 this year, as Police Scotland said it needed time for training.

It creates a criminal offence of “stirring up of hatred”, expanding on a similar offence based on racist abuse that has been on the statute book for decades.

The legislation extends this to other grounds based on age, disability, race, religion, sexual orientation or transgender identity.

Concerns have been expressed that the legislation’s definition of a hate crime is too ambiguous and that it has triggered a torrent of vexatious complaints. Police Scotland pledged to investigate everyone.

In the first week of the legislation, 7,152 online hate reports were made, and fewer than 4% (240) were recorded as hate crimes.

Officers also dealt with 430 incidents in which a hate crime tag was added, while there were 34 calls to 101 or 999 related to a hate crime and 141 emails logged for the same purpose.

The Hate Crime Bill is disastrous in many ways; it has a negative effect on freedom of speech in a country where many felt that free speech was already under threat since the SNP took power. It has led to an already overstretched and underfunded front-line Police force being overwhelmed by dealing with complaints, causing a massive increase in overtime for the Police to attempt to deal with the flood of complaints.

This is something that a Police force that is already struggling financially cannot keep up with, which means taking officers and funding from day-to-day policing.

Yousaf should look at the figures from the latest poll, which show that his popularity has dropped 15 points since January to a net approval of minus 32,2 to see how unpopular the hate crime bill probably is with the Scottish public.

Even among SNP supporters, his popularity is nosediving in the wake of the hate crime bill. Only 29 per cent of people who voted for the nationalists at the last general election believe he is doing a good job, while 36 per cent think he has been poor in office.

Though it is not just Yousaf and his SNP-Green alliance that needs to rethink this terrible piece of Legislation, Labour and the Liberal Democrats also support it. Now, these politicians need to do the right thing for the Scottish people and possibly their careers and vote to repeal this legislation as soon as possible.

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