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Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act 2024

The Liberal Party notes with concern the recent bill passed by the SNP to alter the landscape of freedom of expression in Scotland by imposing restrictions on certain facets of speech deemed threatening or abusive. 

The new legislation will make it an offence to stir up hatred against protected characteristics, including age, disability, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity following on from prior legislation in respect of race.

The Liberal Party believes that in a liberal and tolerant society, freedom of expression should be valued and thus enshrined into law providing it doesn’t infringe on someone’s else liberty. 

In respect of the bill recently passed by the SNP, we believe that the act is, legislation overreach, in a number of areas: 

Firstly, the party believes that the legislation will be used as a weapon by some to try and criminalise those who don’t share their beliefs. 

Secondly, the law does not just apply to social media posts or newspaper articles. It covers anything said anywhere at any time – even in the confines of someone’s own home. Children will in theory be able to report their parents. In addition, people can inform on each other anonymously, through an expanded network of ‘third-party reporting centres’. 

Lastly, the Act states that Scots still have freedom of expression under the European Convention on Human Rights but the fact that this needs to be stated shows the legislation’s architects have doubts about its internal clarity and likely consequences. 

As the old adage says, ‘stick and stones, may break my bones but names will never hurt me’, unfortunately, under the SNP this clearly is no longer true!

Kayed Al-Haddad 
(Scottish Liberal Party Chair)