Hate crime bill is nothing to get hot under the collar about - Vladimir McTavish

A lot of people have been getting very heated this week about the Scottish Government’s upcoming Hate Crime and Public Order Act. And a whole lot of nonsense has been spoken and written about it.
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross - 'hot under collar'Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross - 'hot under collar'
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross - 'hot under collar'

The legislation would make it a criminal offence to use “threatening, abusive or insulting” material that stirs up hatred based on certain “protected characteristics” such as age, disability, religion, sexual orientation and transgender identity.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross was getting very hot under the collar about it at First Minister’s Questions. But then Douglas Ross is always getting very hot under the collar. That’s what happens when your neck is too fat for your shirt.

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He said huge numbers of people could be criminalised for no good reason and that JK Rowling could have the police at her door “every day”. This is, of course, utter nonsense. It is also the height of hypocrisy from someone whose own party received a £10 million donation from Frank Hester, a man who allegedly suggested that black MP Dianne Abbott “should be shot”. Who would complain if he had the police at his door very day?

What has caused the most controversy is the suggestion that the legislation will cover public performances. William Burdett-Coutts, founder of Assembly Festival, one of the biggest venue operators the Edinburgh Fringe, has raised fears that “freedom of expression” at the festival could be at risk due to the act. I suspect he is just using the whole furore as a chance to get some early publicity ahead of this year’s Fringe. However, if he truly believes what he said, then he should take a long hard look at the performers he is booking. Does his programme for this year contain shows that he thinks are going to stir up hatred?

People are suggesting the police will be encouraged to target comedians and actors. I know of no stand-ups who are in any way worried about potentially breaking the law because their material may cause offence, Tongue firmly in cheek, and publicising his show at Glasgow Comedy Festival, my friend Mark Nelson posted on X: “Bring it on, lads. I’m at the King’s on Friday. Plenty to arrest me for.”

Obviously a joke. But the most sensible thing I’ve read on the subject all week.