Melon Farmers Original Version

Scotland stifles free speech


Hate Crime & Public Order (Scot) Bill Hate Crime & Public Order (Scot) Bill


 

Thou shalt not mock religion in Scotland...

The National Secular Society calls for the Scottish Government to restore free speech protections to its disgraceful Hate Crimes bill


Link Here 28th February 2021
Full story: Scotland stifles free speech...Hate Crime & Public Order (Scot) Bill Hate Crime & Public Order (Scot) Bill

The National Secular Society has urged Scotland's justice minister not to renege on a commitment to ensure a strengthened level of protection for free speech on religion in the current hate crime bill.

A vital free speech provision around religion has yet to be determined, even though it had appeared to be settled and a final vote on the legislation is likely to be just days away.

The NSS has long warned that plans to criminalise 'stirring up hatred' on the grounds of religion within the bill pose a threat to freedom of expression.

The Scottish parliament's Justice Committee had agreed to an amendment to protect expressions of "antipathy, dislike, ridicule and insult" of religion or belief during previous consideration of the bill. However, this now appears to be under threat after the launch of a last minute consultation on freedom of expression provisions in the bill. The consultation, which closed on Monday, lasted just four days.

The NSS and Edinburgh Secular Society have now jointly written to Humza Yousaf, Scotland's cabinet secretary for justice, over the issue.

The NSS said a free speech clause covering religion that only protected "discussion or criticism" would be "too imprecise" and go "nowhere near far enough to protect robust debate, satire, comedy and commentary about religions or beliefs".

It added that the law should "in no way serve to criminalise people for their opposition to ideas or protect people's beliefs from antipathy, dislike, ridicule and insult".

The letter argued that the "wide consensus and strong support" for the additional protection for speech about religion or belief should be reflected in the legislation. And it says it would be "unconscionable at this late stage to renege on additional free speech protections already agreed to".

 

 

Scottish government continues to stir up religious hatred...

Proposals to protect free speech in Scottish hate crimes bill do not appear to have gained traction


Link Here18th February 2021
Full story: Scotland stifles free speech...Hate Crime & Public Order (Scot) Bill Hate Crime & Public Order (Scot) Bill
The Scottish government is struggling to find  way of protecting free speech in a disgraceful blasphemy/hate crimes bill.

An amendment was recently proposed to tone down the destruction of free speech The Scottish government is now seeking further suggestions.

Earlier this week the Scottish parliament's Justice Committee approved several amendments to the bill, one of which would provide greater protection for freedom of expression on religion. But these proposals seem to have stalled due to parliamentary/party resistance.

Now the committee issued a call for views on four new options for freedom of expression protections, which have been proposed by the justice secretary who clearly has little interest in free speech. Only two of the options contain the agreed amendment on free speech on religion. The other two substantially dilute protection for freedom of expression on religion in comparison.

The committee has requested that views on the proposals be submitted by 10:00 this coming Monday (22 February).

The original amendment proposed that a conviction for stirring up hatred on religious grounds would require the prosecution to demonstrate that the accused had behaved in a manner which is threatening or abusive and intended to stir up hatred.

One of the new amendments would have provided greater protection to expressions of antipathy, ridicule, dislike or insult of religion or belief. But two of the four options now proposed only say behaviour would not reach the threshold for prosecution solely on the basis that it involves or includes discussion or criticism of religion.

National Secular Society chief executive Stephen Evans said the Scottish government's position was perplexing and farcical. He commented:

The level of protection for freedom of expression on religion in this bill appeared settled. The agreed amendment was a significant step in the right direction and the Scottish government shouldn't be reopening this.

This episode simply reinforces legitimate concerns that the bill will unacceptably intrude on freedom of speech. With this in mind, and amid a deeply confused and rushed process, MSPs should press pause on the relevant section of this bill.

 

 

Scottish Injustice...

Free speech protection clause fails to convince the youngsters of the SNP


Link Here 2nd February 2021
Full story: Scotland stifles free speech...Hate Crime & Public Order (Scot) Bill Hate Crime & Public Order (Scot) Bill
A free speech protection amendment to Scotland's disgraceful hate crime bill that would have allowed some discussion or criticism of matters relating to transgender identity has been withdrawn after members of the ruling Scottish National Party (SNP) threatened to resign in protest.

People can be convicted of an offense under this bill if they're deemed to have shown malice and ill-will towards protected groups via blogs, emails, podcasts, social media posts, websites, and more. Even people who forward or repeat offending material can be convicted.

Under this amendment, which was proposed last week by Humza Yousaf, Scotland's Cabinet Secretary for Injustice, there would have been a freedom of expression protection where behaviours and materials are not to be taken as threatening or abusive solely on the basis that it involves or includes discussion or criticism of matters relating to transgender identity.

But after Yousaf proposed the amendment, many younger and LGBT+ SNP members threatened to resign their party membership. This prompted SNP Leader Nicola Sturgeon to step in and plead for them to remain party members. This ultimately resulted in Yousaf withdrawing his amendment and meeting with opposition parties in another attempt to write a new amendment that would give freedom of expression protection for all categories.

 

 

Hating free speech...

Scotland's disgraceful 'hate crimes' bill to diminish free speech passes its first test in the Scottish Parliament


Link Here 18th December 2020
Full story: Scotland stifles free speech...Hate Crime & Public Order (Scot) Bill Hate Crime & Public Order (Scot) Bill
Scotland is proceeding with its disgraceful plans to pass a new blasphemy law.

Currently, the Hate Crime Bill looks likely to eventually pass, as it just secured a 91 to 29 vote in parliament during the first phase of the legislative procedure.

Some of the more troublesome points of the bill, the way it was originally drafted, include sanctioning possession of what's referred to as inflammatory media (memes, emails, images, and dark humor), as well as social media posts determined by the authorities to be problematic. At the same time, the legislation is vague enough to fail to objectively define what abuse in terms of speech means.

The phase one vote was preceded by a debate, when SNP member and Scotland's Injustice Secretary Humza Yousaf acknowledged there were concerns about the bill's chilling effect on free speech, but immediately went on to mention the chilling effect of hate (speech) crime perpetrated against sexual, ethnic and racial minorities and religious communities.

 

 

Offsite Article: The Scottish Government has made the Hate Crime Bill controversial...


Link Here6th December 2020
Full story: Scotland stifles free speech...Hate Crime & Public Order (Scot) Bill Hate Crime & Public Order (Scot) Bill
Controversial is probably not an adjective that governments wish to have associated with legislation they are trying to pass, but it is certainly an appropriate description of the Scottish Government's Hate Crime Bill.

See article from holyrood.com

 

 

Hating free speech...

Improvements to Scotland's disgraceful speech censorship bill


Link Here 26th November 2020
Full story: Scotland stifles free speech...Hate Crime & Public Order (Scot) Bill Hate Crime & Public Order (Scot) Bill

The National Secular Society has welcomed a decision from Scotland's injustice secretary to strengthen a clause on free speech on religion in his government's proposed hate crime bill.

Humza Yousaf announced that the bill would be amended to provide greater protection to expressions of antipathy, dislike, ridicule and insult of religion. A conviction for stirring up hatred would require the prosecution to demonstrate that the accused had behaved in a manner which is threatening or abusive and intended to stir up hatred.

The bill will now make clear that people are free to express antipathy, ridicule, dislike of a religion or religions, or the absence of religious belief, or to insult religions, or the absence of religious belief -- if they do not do so in a way that is threatening or abusive and intended to stir up hatred.

NSS chief executive Stephen Evans said:

This is a significant and welcome step from the justice secretary which will go a long way towards protecting free speech on religion in Scotland. But we continue to urge ministers to at least match the free speech protection offered in England and Wales's Racial and Religious Hatred Act. This bill's weaker provision will mean it still risks capturing speech which people find offensive -- and therefore subjectively abusive.

 

 

Commented: A disgraceful disregard of free speech...

Scottish MSPs point out that a new blasphemy bill will apply to speech in people's private homes


Link Here 2nd November 2020
Full story: Scotland stifles free speech...Hate Crime & Public Order (Scot) Bill Hate Crime & Public Order (Scot) Bill
The disgraceful new Scottish hate crime and blasphemy bill will criminalise free speech in people's own homes, MSPs have been told.

MSPs questioned Scottish 'Justice' Secretary Humza Yousaf over the censorship legislation during an evidence session before the Holyrood Justice Committee. The new proposed legislation will introduce a stirring-up of hate offence on characteristics including religion, and sexual orientation.

However critics note that the Hate Crime and Public Order Bill, which centres around plans for a new offence of stirring up hatred, will stifle freedom of expression.

BBC Scotland, Catholic bishops, the Humanist Society of Scotland, and the Scottish Police Federation are amongst those to have raised concerns, along with Mr Bean star Rowan Atkinson and writer Val McDermid.

Because of this, Yousaf was forced to moderate the legislation and marginally change the controversial stirring up offences section which has been condemned by opponents. It now means stirring up offences would be limited to intent relating to age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, transgender identity and variations in sex characteristics and therefore prosecutions could only be brought in this respect.

Liam Kerr MSP, Scottish Conservative Justice Spokesman, added: The Hate Crime Bill was a mess when the SNP first brought it to parliament and it still contains serious issues that need to be fixed. He said:

Tinkering around the margins will not fix the most controversial bill in Scottish Parliament history.

This latest admission from the justice secretary confirms what so many respondents to the consultation have warned 203 that as drafted, this Bill means free speech could be criminalised within the home with friends you've invited over for a dinner party, and that Mr Yousaf is perfectly comfortable with that.

The SNP need to be clear with the Scottish public about exactly what they intend this Hate Crime Bill to do.

They can't keep trying to force through dangerous attacks on freedom of speech.

Update: Stronger free speech protection needed over hate crime bill urges the National Secular Society

31st October 2020. See article from secularism.org.uk

The National Secular Society has urged the Scottish government to ensure freedom of expression is adequately protected after ministers hinted at possible concessions in a bill on hate crime.

NSS chief executive Stephen Evans met with government representatives on Thursday and urged them to reconsider plans to criminalise stirring up hatred on various grounds, including religion.

Mr Evans warned that the vague and highly subjective wording in the bill risked chilling free speech and sending the message that the law was there to protect people from being offended.

Part of the bill, which is currently making its way through the Scottish parliament, would criminalise behaviour deemed threatening or abusive and intended to stir up hatred.

As part of its case the NSS argued that protections for free speech in the relevant section of the bill should be at least as strong as their equivalents in England and Wales.

Offsite Comment: Scotland is leading the way to totalitarianism

2nd November 2020. See article from unherd.com by Rod Dreher

 A bill brought forth by the SNP aims to police what citizens say at home

 

 

Commented: Intent to censor...

Scottish Injustice Secretary agrees to remove the worst part of his disgraceful speech censorship bill


Link Here24th September 2020
Full story: Scotland stifles free speech...Hate Crime & Public Order (Scot) Bill Hate Crime & Public Order (Scot) Bill
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.

Yousaf said:

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

24th September 2020. See article from secularism.org.uk

The National Secular Society has welcomed news that Scotland's current hate crime bill will be amended, but warned that offences within the bill remain a menace to free and open debate.

 

 

Hating free speech...

Nicola Sturgeon acknowledges significant criticism of her disgraceful 'hate crime' censorship bill


Link Here 4th September 2020
Full story: Scotland stifles free speech...Hate Crime & Public Order (Scot) Bill Hate Crime & Public Order (Scot) Bill
Nicola Sturgeon has suggested disgraceful censorship proposals could be overhauled to listen to concerns that new laws will diminish freedom of speech.

The plans have faced criticism from a range of voices over worries that freedom of speech will be eroded. The Scottish parliament's justice committee received almost 2,000 submissions in response to a consultation on the bill. The committee's convener has described this response as unprecedented.

Even the police criticised the plans. The Scottish Police Federation has said ministers have grossly underestimated policing costs associated with the bill.

Sturgeon said in a speech to the Scottish Parliament:

I want to give an assurance that we will listen carefully. Freedom of speech and expression is fundamental in any democracy.

There's really good reasons why we need to make sure we've got laws in this country that are capable of tackling hate crime because it is pernicious and horrible and we should have zero tolerance to it.

We've got to do that in a way that respects and protects people's legitimate freedom of speech and expression. As with so many really important things we do in society, these are not always straight forward things -- they involve striking balances and they involve getting into the real detail of how we get this right.

We're at the start of a legislative process. I think the right thing to do is to listen to concerns, to go through the committee scrutiny process and if there are amendments we need to make to reassure people who have legitimate concerns, we certainly give an undertaking to do that.

We hear these concerns and we want to navigate a way through this bill that does what we want to do around hate crime but doesn't leave people thinking the legitimate right to freedom of speech is being compromised.

 

 

Scotland's proposed hate law will disgracefully put an end to free speech...

...But...maybe it will at least put a stop to religious groups spouting hatred about gays and other religions


Link Here1st September 2020
Full story: Scotland stifles free speech...Hate Crime & Public Order (Scot) Bill Hate Crime & Public Order (Scot) Bill
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 anti-religious zealots.

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 jail.

 

 

Offsite Article: Scotland's hate crime bill would stifle free speech...


Link Here28th August 2020
Full story: Scotland stifles free speech...Hate Crime & Public Order (Scot) Bill Hate Crime & Public Order (Scot) Bill
The law could criminalise people making jokes or discussing religion and would do more harm than good. By Index on Censorship

See article from indexoncensorship.org

 

 

The right to critique ideas, philosophical, religious and other must be protected...

An open letter from Rowan Atkinson and others criticises Scotland's disgraceful censorship bill


Link Here11th August 2020
Full story: Scotland stifles free speech...Hate Crime & Public Order (Scot) Bill Hate Crime & Public Order (Scot) Bill
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

 

 

The Scottish government is deliberately intending to stifle free speech...

With a disgraceful new bill whose public consultation has just closed


Link Here26th July 2020
Full story: Scotland stifles free speech...Hate Crime & Public Order (Scot) Bill Hate Crime & Public Order (Scot) Bill
A public consultation has closed on changes to Scotland's hate crime laws that will diminish free speech even further.

The plans to make it a criminal offence to stir up hatred, criticise or insult anyone based on their age, disability, religion, sexual orientation or transgender identity.

The bill will massively step up the definitions of what people are not allowed to stay lest it be considered insulting to easily offended identity groups, particularly sensitive religions. The bill also extends from people's words into the possession of material that might be considered critical of sensitive identity groups.

The disgraceful bill has been opposed by many particularly the most effected, like newspapers.

Opposition to the bill has united the Catholic Church and the National Secular Society in opposition to the plans - along with academics, playwrights and newspaper columnists who all say they fear the proposed legislation will pose a threat to their freedom of speech. For example comedians could become too frightened to dare make a joke about a Scotsman, an Englishman and an Irishman walking into a bar.

The public were invited to make their views known to the Scottish parliament's justice committee before midnight on 24 July.

Amanda Millar, president of the Law Society of Scotland, said:

It was right that laws provide a clear message that hatred should have no place in our society. However, we have significant reservations regarding a number of the bill's provisions and the lack of clarity, which could in effect lead to restrictions in freedom of expression, one of the foundations of a democratic society. We have real concerns that certain behaviour, views expressed or even an actor's performance, which might well be deemed insulting or offensive, could result in a criminal conviction under the terms of the bill as currently drafted.

Scottish Labour criticised the offence of stirring up hatred and accused ministers of failing to learn the lessons of the repealed Offensive Behaviour at Football Act. The party's justice spokesman James Kelly said:

There is a significant divergence from similar law in England and Wales where intent is required for a person to be criminalised for behaviour which another finds insulting. Under the current proposals, the law here would not require this intent to be present - which sets an alarming legal precedent and could result in the criminalisation of expressions of religious views.

In its submission to Holyrood's Justice Committee, the Scottish Newspaper Society warned that it contained highly dangerous measures which pose a serious threat to freedom of expression in its broadest sense. The organisation's director, John McLellan, said it had the potential to provoke a string of vexatious complaints against journalists and columnists, which could then lead to police investigations. He raised further concerns about provisions against communicating insulting material:

It would also be an offence to distribute it, which potentially could see newspaper delivery boys and girls, or shops, fall foul of the law.

Allowing courts to direct the destruction of material had echoes of darker times and could lead to the banning of books or censorship of the internet, he warned.

He added that JK Rowling, who has recently faced a deluge of criticism from transgender rights activists after she expressed her views online, would almost certainly have seen her subjected to a police investigation had the proposed law been in force.



 

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