Scotland’s hate crime law has yet to come into force almost a year after it was passed

Scotland’s new hate crime law has not come into force, nearly twelve months after Holyrood passed it.

Ministers have yet to implement legislation that will give Scots additional protection against vile attacks.

Lawyer Aamer Anwar lashed out at the Scottish government: “There is no point in the fanfare of voting on 21st century legislation if the government and the Justice Secretary cannot act together to make it law.

“They have had more than enough time. What excuse does Keith Brown have now?

The Hate Crimes Law was one of the most controversial laws debated by MSPs in the last legislature.

It created new hate crimes, previously applied only to race, by expanding protected characteristics such as disability, race, religion, and sexual orientation.

Critics feared the initial proposals could have a chilling effect on free speech, and the government faced backlash.

Writers and artists, including Val McDermid, Chris Brookmyre and Elaine C Smith, were among those who signed a letter warning of the unintended consequences of the legislation.

The bill was amended to include free speech protections and was approved by MSPs last March by a vote of 82 to 32.

However, despite the legislation receiving royal assent, key provisions have yet to come into force.

A Police Scotland report said the new legislation would require “training, guidance and communications planning”.

The single force also asked not to have to “fully comply” with a section of the law until a new IT system is in place, which is expected to be in 2023.

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The Government is understood to be working with judicial partners on the “effective implementation” of the Law.

The start date will be confirmed in due course.

Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Liam McArthur said:

“With recent statistics suggesting that hate crimes have increased in almost every category, it is surprising that these provisions are not yet in place.

“No one deserves to live in fear of prejudice or violence. There should be equal opportunities for everyone, no matter what we look like, who we are, or where we come from.”

Scottish Conservative MSP Jamie Greene said: “It is no wonder there is no appetite for the SNP Hate Crimes Act to be enforced given the huge demands it places on our justice system.

“While its intentions may be good, it is a flawed bill that could lead to police having to investigate conversations around the table.

“Preparing for this bill has put overwhelming pressure on our police, and massive overhauls of ICT and data recording systems are needed despite a capital budget cut in real terms for Police Scotland.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Building on the progress made in implementing the Tackling Prejudice and Building Connected Communities Action Plan, we will shortly start working with key partners to co-create a new hate crime strategy. which will be published later this year.

“The new strategy will help guide how we tackle hate and prejudice in Scotland and will also support the implementation of the Public Order and Hate Crimes (Scotland) Act 2021.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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