A disgraceful speech censorship bill will be tweaked to remove at least they very worst parts of the bill. Injustice Secretary Humza Yousaf admitted they would curb freedom of speech.
The SNP minister says that the censorship will only apply to those
with intent to stir up hatred against any group. Previously the hatred would be as perceived by the easily offended. A disaster in the modern world where people claim offence at the most trivial hint of an insult. Think religious offence of
so called micro-aggressions or unconscious bias etc.
There is a real risk that if the offences don't require intent to stir up hatred, there could be a perception and indeed uncertainty that the
operation of this aspect of the offences may be used to prosecute what are entirely legitimate acts of expression.
This in itself might lead to an element of self-censorship. This is not the aim of the legislation.
The Hate Crime Bill also adds new characteristics to the law, such as age and sex, but it was claimed the plans will curb civil liberties, criminalise comedy and even target religious books.
Yousaf said that he is still
pushing ahead with the bill. He confirmed the government will amend the Bill at the next stage of scrutiny, when MSPs start going through the plans line by line.
Opposition Tory MSPs said they want to see even bigger changes before the laws can be
passed with support at Holyrood. Jamie Gillies, spokesman for the Free to Disagree Campaign against the stirring up plans, said:
There's still too low a threshold for offending, the wording is hopelessly vague, free speech
provisions are inadequate, there is no 'dwelling defence', and people outside Scotland could be caught.
Withdrawing the 'stirring up' offences wholesale is the only way to resolve these complex issues and ensure that other, vital
civil liberties are upheld. The fact that the government hasn't done this means opposition to the bill will continue for months to come. It's a missed opportunity.
Offsite Comment: Plan to amend Scottish hate crime bill isn't enough
A disgraceful censorship law proposed by Scotland's Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf has been widely condemned by a wide range of religious and secular organisations. But Atheist Scotland says it could be useful to prevent faith leaders from expressing
vitriol against a variety of groups including trans people and homosexuals.
Atheist Scotland's convenor, Ian Stewart, said in a letter to a local newspaper that group planned to monitor scripture, sermons in places of worship and social media accounts
and report any hatred to Police Scotland for criminal investigation.
The Christian Institute, which opposes the legislation, warned preachers noting that it could expose church ministers to the risk of prosecution at the instigation of
The law would make stirring up hatred against certain groups a criminal offence, even if a person making the remarks had not intended to do so or made them in private. Those found guilty would face up to seven years in
A joint open letter from over 20 individuals and organisations highlights their concerns over the impact on artistic expression and free expression of the draft Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill.
The letter co-ordinated by Humanist Society
Scotland has support from authors Val McDermid, Chirs Brookmyre and Alan Bissett alongside arts administrators Dame Seona Reid and the artistic director of Dundee Rep, Andrew Paton. They join Cartoonists Rights International and academics such as Prof AC
Grayling and Prof Timothy Garden Ash alongside many others.
The letter reads:
We represent a diverse group of individuals and organisations concerned about the impact on freedom of expression of the proposed Hate Crime and
Public Order Bill as currently drafted.
We welcome the provisions to consolidate existing aggravated hate crimes and the repeal of the blasphemy law.
However, the Bill creates stirring up offences without
any intent being examined; merely that the words, action, or artwork might do so. This offence could even be applied to being in possession of materials produced by someone else, where sharing the material could stir up hatred.
The unintended consequences of this well meaning Bill risk stifling freedom of expression, and the ability to articulate or criticise religious and other beliefs.
As currently worded, the Bill could frustrate rational debate and discussion which has a fundamental role in society including in artistic endeavour. The arts play a key part in shaping Scotland's identity in addition to being a
significant economic contributor.
The right to critique ideas, philosophical, religious and other must be protected to allow an artistic and democratic society to flourish.
Fraser Sutherland, Chief
Executive, Humanist Society Scotland Andrew Copson, Chief Executive, Humanists UK Scottish PEN Index on Censorship Chris Brookmyre, Novelist Val McDermid, Writer Elaine C Smith, Actor and Comedian Dame Seona Reid, Arts Administrator Alan Bissett, Playwright and Novelist Ruth Wishart, Journalist and Broadcaster Andrew Panton, Artistic Director Dundee Rep / Joint CEO Dundee Rep & Scottish Dance Theatre Ltd
Prof. Maggie Kinloch, Theatre Director & Chair Humanist Society Scotland Ariane Sherine, Comedian and Journalist Joan Smith, Journalist, novelist, and human rights activist Peter Tatchell, Director, Peter
Tatchell Foundation Rowan Atkinson, Comedian Prof. A C Grayling, Philosopher and Author Prof. Timothy Garton Ash, Historian and author of Free Speech Nick Ross, Television and Radio Presenter Terry
Anderson, Executive Director, Cartoonists Rights Network International Gary McLelland, Chief Executive, Humanists International Michael Connarty, Former MP and former Chair of Parliamentary Humanist Group Dr Evan Harris,
Former MP and former Vice-Chair of Parliamentary Humanist Group Quilliam Foundation
A Chinese Consulate put pressure on Belfast Council to remove an image of Tiananmen Square from a public art exhibition.
A photo from the Double Take exhibition, by Zurich-based artists Jojakim Cortis and Adrian Sonderegger, displayed images of
Airfix like model kits recreating globally significant events. In this case depicting an iconic image of a lone protester in front of a convoy of military tanks in Beijing.
The photograph was not removed, although it is understood the exhibition
was scheduled to end a short time after the matter was raised. A council spokesman said:
We received a complaint in June 2019 in relation to a photograph in the Double Take exhibition, part of the Belfast Photographic
Festival, on the front lawns of Belfast City Hall. The photograph was not removed.
Amnesty International's Northern Ireland programme director Patrick Corrigan said:
It is outrageous that the Chinese
Consulate apparently sought to have the photograph, commemorating the brave students of 1989, removed from the grounds of Belfast City Hall. The state censorship of Beijing cannot be extended to Belfast.