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Scotland’s “hate crime” law takes effect on 1 April and police are being trained to target actors

According to The Herald Scotland, leaked police training material suggests that under the Scottish hate crime bill, “threatening and abusive” material can be communicated through a public performance of a play.

Police Scotland has promised that it will investigate every hate crime complaint reported, despite the force adopting a “proportionate response” approach to other crimes and despite previous assurances that freedom of speech would be protected.

Scotland’s new hate crime legislation comes into force on 1 April.  It consolidates some existing laws and creates a new offence of stirring up hatred against protected characteristics, including age, disability, religion, sexual orientation and transgender identity.

The slide from the police training module, obtained by The Herald Scotland, outlines ways in which “threatening and or abusive material” might be communicated under Section 4 of the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act.

The slide states: “The different ways in which a person may communicate material to another person are by displaying, publishing or distributing the material, for example on a sign, on the internet through websites, blogs, podcasts, social media etc, either directly, or by forwarding or repeating material that originates from a third party, through printed media such as magazine publications or leaflets.”

It then goes on to say “giving, sending, showing or playing the material to another person” listing examples of “through online streaming, by email, playing a video, through public performance of a play.”

Slide from Scottish police training module.  Source: The Herald Scotland

Police Scotland did not deny that the leaked slide of its training material was genuine. However, it insisted it was not instructing officers to target “actors, comedians or any other people or groups”.

The revelations caused a backlash from high-profile artists, who said they feared delivering lines as a fictional character could risk prosecution if an offended audience member complained to police.

How the legislation interacts with the performing arts has long been controversial.

When the bill was first drafted there was an outcry from artists. More than 20 artists, authors, journalists and campaigners, including Rowan Atkinson and Val McDermid, signed an open letter in August 2020 calling on ministers to think again.

A freedom of expression provision was added to the legislation which said that behaviour or material was “not to be taken to be threatening or abusive solely on the basis that it involves or includes discussion or criticism of matters relating to age, disability, sexual orientation, transgender identity, variations in sex characteristics.”

However, the next clause says this would also apply to “discussion or criticism relating to, or expressions of antipathy, dislike, ridicule or insult towards” religion, religious beliefs and religious practices. “

Because that second clause spells out specific expressions but the first does not, some lawyers suggest this means expressions of antipathy, dislike, ridicule, or insult about age, disability, sexual orientation, race, transgender identity or variations in sex characteristics would never amount to a defence under the section of the Act on freedom of expression.

Scott Wortley, a law lecturer at the University of Edinburgh, said the protections applied only to directors and other third parties involved in a production, not to the performers themselves.

Russell Findlay, the justice spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives, said it appeared that the police training materials contradicted legislation passed by Members of the Scottish Parliament, which excluded plays from its scope.

“This revelation adds to widespread concerns about Humza Yousaf’s hate crime law and needs to be explained,” he said.  “The Scottish Conservatives remain committed to binning this dangerous law which threatens free speech and risks causing chaos for hard-working police officers.”

It’s not only performers that are in the firing line.  The Telegraph reported that “trans rights” activists have vowed to target Harry Potter author JK Rowling with the new legislation, claiming her publicly “misgendering” people, by referring to trans women as men, would constitute a crime under the law.

JK Rowling has branded the law “ludicrous” and has said she will “do some more accurate sexing” once it comes into force.

What both The Herald and The Telegraph omitted to mention is that it’s not only actors, actresses, comedians, comediennes, authors and authoresses in the line of fire.  It’s the entire Scottish population.  Every man, woman and child – regardless of age, sex, race religion, ability/disability or how a person earns a living – will be subject to the whims of someone who feels, or claims to feel, offended.  The Scottish government has made the huge mistake of taking George Orwell’s 1984 as a blueprint.

The result?  As police officers’ time is taken up with investigating what is bound to become an insurmountable number of reports relating to ouchie words, expect real crimes – such as theft, murder and rape – to go uninvestigated and real criminals to be left unimpeded to prowl the streets.

There are about 5.5 million people in Scotland.  The best thing the Scots can do is take a leaf out of JK Rowling’s book and do not let the “hate crimes” legislation control your speech.  The police cannot investigate potentially millions of “hate crimes.”  It won’t take the government long to realise how ludicrous their Orwellian plans are.

Sources for this article include:


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