Edinburgh protest against new hate crime legislation takes place outside the Scottish Parliament

Edinburgh protest on Monday outside Holyrood
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Around 300 people protested outside the Scottish Parliament on Monday, April 1 to oppose new hate crime legislation, with some saying they were prepared to be jailed.

A coffin bearing a sign reading "We hate hate crime laws" was decorated with masks resembling SNP leader Humza Yousaf and co-leader of the Scottish Greens, Patrick Harvie.

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The Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act was described as "totalitarian" and "ammunition for bigots" amid concerns of tit-for-tat reports, with one man taping his mouth closed to show his opposition. Placards read "Truth is not hate speech", and "Protect free speech".

Mark Leslie, an artist, said: "People tend to think that if you are against this you want to be abusive. I'm not political, I'm not religious, but I think this law is ammunition for bigots. It's freaky that records can be stored but they can't even get crime done.

"The reason I'm here is the Scottish Enlightenment - the church and state should have no power over what people are allowed to say. This is the opposite of the Scottish Enlightenment."

Campaigners gather outside the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood in Edinburgh, to mark the introduction of the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act. Photo: Lesley Martin/PA WireCampaigners gather outside the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood in Edinburgh, to mark the introduction of the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act. Photo: Lesley Martin/PA Wire
Campaigners gather outside the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood in Edinburgh, to mark the introduction of the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act. Photo: Lesley Martin/PA Wire

Sally Wainwright, 70, from Scottish Lesbians, said she knew younger women who were afraid of losing their jobs because of having posted on social media about their desire to maintain female-only spaces.

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Ms Wainwright said: "I'm a lesbian and I'm really concerned that our voices are never heard - this act will make it more difficult for us to speak. It completely interferes with freedom of speech.

"The Scottish Government legislative programme has been about giving men more rights to interfere with what were women's' rights, and giving men more rights to come into women's spaces.

"I don't wish anybody any harm, I just don't want men in our space, and I could be accused of a hate crime. Lesbianism is very fashionable for men, but there's fewer lesbian women now than there used to be - younger women are identifying as queer, poly, pan, partly because they are afraid of being called transphobic.

"We are paying tax for Scottish Government legal bills but we have got so many problems, like the worst drugs death rate in Europe, and potholes."

The act consolidates existing hate crime legislation and creates a new offence of stirring up hatred against protected characteristics. Photo: Lesley Martin/PA WireThe act consolidates existing hate crime legislation and creates a new offence of stirring up hatred against protected characteristics. Photo: Lesley Martin/PA Wire
The act consolidates existing hate crime legislation and creates a new offence of stirring up hatred against protected characteristics. Photo: Lesley Martin/PA Wire
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Another gender-critical activist, Lisa, 58, from Edinburgh, said: "It is like what happened in Germany where children spied on their parents. It's scary. It feels really creepy that you can't have a conversation in a family home.

"It's very subjective what hate is, they are conflating "hate" with "offensive". It's like the Hitler Youth."

Nick Mitchell, 31, from Edinburgh, said he was prepared to face trial for his opposition to the new law, and had been studying European Convention on Human Rights legislation, specifically Article 10, to challenge it in court if necessary despite the prospect of a seven-year prison sentence.

He carried a sign which read "I control my tongue not the Government nor the police, my freedom of speech is my human right I will not be silent", and described Scotland as "totalitarian" and "a dictatorship".

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Mr Mitchell said: "I'm against every aspect of it, there's no need for it. I'm not a racist or a transphobe but I call a spade a spade, and I'm prepared to go to jail for it. I've got contingency plans. I'll go to court in front of a jury for my human rights.

"You have to be well informed to fight the totalitarianism in this country. I have the right to say what I wish."

Niall Fraser, from the Scottish Family Party which organised the coffin, said: "The inspiration for the coffin was that free speech has died here in Scotland. Today we buried it and had a funeral service."