Scotland’s Hate Crime Act is an authoritarian monstrosity

The SNP’s woke censorship is fuelled by fear and loathing of ordinary people.

Fraser Myers

Fraser Myers
Deputy editor

Topics Free Speech UK

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‘Then, before you know it, you’ve committed a hate crime.’ These are the words of the ‘hate monster’, a fuzzy, orange cartoon character designed by Police Scotland. A video featuring said monster was released earlier this month, as part of an awareness-raising campaign for the new Hate Crime Act that’s coming into force in Scotland on 1 April.

This ‘hate monster’ is said to live inside all ordinary Scots. According to the video, when you feel ‘insecure or angry’, the hate monster can grow and overwhelm you, to the point where it can ‘make you want to have a go at somebody’ and ‘vent your anger just because folk look or act different [from] you’. In the eyes of the Scottish authorities, the average person is always just one moment away from making a hateful outburst or launching a violent attack against a minority.

‘Before you know it.’ It’s a phrase that unwittingly captures the casual tyranny of the SNP’s new hate-speech law. The breadth of what it will criminalise is so vast that it really is plausible that someone could commit a speechcrime without even realising it. One day, you could be expressing what was once a perfectly lawful opinion and, ‘before you know it’, the police are knocking down your door.

The Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act 2021 has two main provisions. First, it will turn any crime into an ‘aggravated’ offence if it is deemed to have been motivated by prejudice, resulting in a harsher sentence. Second, most significantly, it will make it a crime to behave in an ‘abusive’ manner ‘intended to stir up hatred’ against groups with certain protected characteristics. The law extends an existing provision against ‘stirring up’ racial hatred, set out in the UK-wide Public Order Act 1986, to cover matters as diverse as religion, sexual orientation and ‘transgender identity’. Those found guilty of wrongthink under this provision can be punished with an astonishing seven years in prison.

What precisely counts as ‘stirring up hatred’ is not spelled out in the legislation, so it will be left to police and prosecutors to decide. Indeed, as David Hamilton, chairman of the Scottish Police Federation, has warned, the ‘stirring up hatred’ provisions open an ‘absolute can of worms’, leaving it to officers to make ‘subjective decisions’ about what the public can and cannot say. This is a recipe for arbitrary arrest.

By the time the Hate Crime Act comes into force, it will have been three years since it was originally passed by the Scottish parliament, in April 2021. One reason the implementation has taken so long is that police chiefs have struggled to get their heads around its scope. This has led to long delays in producing training materials for officers. Now that this guidance has finally been produced and distributed to police stations across the land, it is clear the police are planning to interpret the law in the most authoritarian way imaginable.

‘Hate’, according to leaked police training documents, can appear practically anywhere. It might be ‘stirred up’ on websites, social media, podcasts and printed publications. ‘Public performances of plays’ are also singled out as potentially criminal expressions of hatred in the guidance.

The police’s reference to public performances is especially alarming. An early draft of the hate-crime bill, which would have explicitly criminalised actors who perform in ‘hateful’ theatre shows, was actually voted down by the Scottish parliament. Police Scotland have since clarified that they will not ‘target’ performances, in the sense that they will not proactively pursue supposedly hateful thespians. But they will ‘respond to complaints’ about offensive plays.

Will a comedian at the Edinburgh Fringe be allowed to make fun of Islam or gender ideology? That really could come down to the judgement of one or two police officers. As Tony Lenehan KC, president of Faculty of Advocates Criminal Bar Association, has explained to the BBC, performers will simply have to ‘trust their luck’ that they will not be arrested or even imprisoned for their art.

And what about JK Rowling? The Edinburgh-based Harry Potter author has been vocal in expressing her support for women’s sex-based rights and her belief in biological sex. Although her views are uncontroversial among the sane majority, many deranged trans activists consider this mild-mannered liberal feminist to be a toxic hate preacher. And these activists tend to have the ear of the authorities.

One man in a dress recently attempted to have Rowling arrested in England because she dared to refer to him – accurately – as a ‘narcissistic, shallow and exhibitionist… man’. Although so-called misgendering does not currently meet the criminal threshold under UK-wide hate-speech laws, that could soon be about to change in Scotland thanks to the Hate Crime Act.

If a recent exposé by the Telegraph is anything to go by, then perhaps the coppers are already planning to feel Rowling’s collar. At a recent Police Scotland hate-crime event, officers were presented with a supposedly fictional case of a woman called ‘Jo’ who has a large internet following and who says things like ‘there are only two genders’ (Rowling’s first name is Joanne, or Jo for short). For good measure, the police presentation also threw in the fantastical suggestion that this gender-critical ‘Jo’ wants to put trans people in ‘gas chambers’. Attendees were then asked to decide whether Jo could be a hate criminal and what action the police should take.

The punishment of writers, actors and artists would merely be the tip of the iceberg. As the legislation itself makes clear, nowhere in Scotland is safe from the clutches of the draconian Hate Crime Act. Even conversations in one’s own home can be criminalised under the new law – the ‘dwelling defence’, which exempts dinner-table conversations from existing hate-speech laws, doesn’t appear in this one.

If you think the Hate Crime Act is just about protecting marginalised minorities from prejudice and abuse, then think again. As part of their mandatory hate-crime training, police officers are presented with an incident from 2022, when Patrick Harvie, co-leader of the Scottish Greens and a Scottish government minister, was heckled and called a ‘deviant’ by a member of the public. Coppers are then asked to identify which provisions in the Hate Crime Act this protester could now be imprisoned under. As one officer warned in the Scottish Daily Express, the new law will effectively turn the police into ‘a private militia for the SNP / Greens’ government, locking up people who are mean to ministers.

While politicians, elites and favoured activists will gain new protections under the Hate Crime Act, it is clear who will face the sharp end of it. The webpage promoting Police Scotland’s hate-monster campaign is very candid about the precise demographic that police plan to target. The most likely thoughtcriminals, it says, are those with ‘deep-rooted feelings of being socially and economically disadvantaged, combined with ideas about white-male entitlement’. That is, the dreaded white, working-class male. This is an astonishing admission for a police force that is supposed to be committed to equality before law.

Still, in its targeting of the working class, the Hate Crime Act is of a piece with many of the SNP’s forays into authoritarianism. Think of the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Act – a now-repealed piece of legislation that gave the authorities the power to imprison football fans for up to five years for singing offensive songs and chants. Or the sinister ‘named persons’ scheme, which, had it not been outlawed by the courts, would have assigned a state guardian to every child in Scotland.

The Hate Crime Act isn’t about helping the marginalised. It is itself driven by a form of hatred – by the SNP’s elitist fear and loathing of the Scottish masses. It is born of a deeply irrational fear that the little people are so consumed with prejudice, so overwhelmed by bigotry, that they need to be restrained and re-educated. Or else, they will literally turn into ‘hate monsters’, and all hell will break loose.

Scotland’s Hate Crime Act is an authoritarian monstrosity. It is a vindictive, elitist assault on that most precious of democratic liberties – the right of ordinary, everyday people to speak their minds as they see fit. Let’s hope this experiment in tyranny can be brought to a swift end.

Fraser Myers is deputy editor at spiked and host of the spiked podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @FraserMyers.

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Topics Free Speech UK


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