Repeal may be only solution for hate crime act - John McLellan

Lord Hope. (Picture: Phil Wilkinson)Lord Hope. (Picture: Phil Wilkinson)
Lord Hope. (Picture: Phil Wilkinson)
On its founding 90 years ago the SNP set itself a mighty ambition, but it wasn’t to turn Scotland into the world’s laboratory for bad ideas.

The jibe coined by Inverness-born Spectator magazine editor Fraser Nelson after the introduction of the new Hate Crime Act, was this week quoted by Lord Hope, once Scotland’s most senior judge and a former deputy president of the UK Supreme Court. It could yet be the SNP’s epitaph.

In less than a fortnight, Police Scotland has been deluged with thousands of complaints, hardly any of which will result in prosecution, never mind conviction.

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No-one knows how or if these complaints will be recorded, and along with gender recognition reform, named persons, and offensive behaviour at football, a reputation for being a joyless, puritanical nation of clypes is developing, fuelled by two angry governing parties more chippy than a carpenters’ convention.

Lord Hope thinks the bill should be repealed, saying: “The gesture politics here has meant sending out a message that has been misunderstood by people who don’t grasp the qualifications and protections contained in the act.”

Describing the legislation as “well-intentioned”, he said problems arose because, “a large number of people who don’t really read the statute, who act on impulse … are not going to be put off by ministers saying don’t bother the police.”

As an 85-year-old, privately educated white man, there is only slightly more chance of the SNP-Greens heeding Lord Hope’s advice than Benjamin Netanyahu’s, but repeal may be the only solution.