Scotland’s much-criticised hate crimes bill – which could have made parts of the Bible illegal – has been amended, but serious concerns remain.
Christian and secular groups alike all feared the bill would attack free speech. Concessions have been made by the Scottish government, but free speech campaigners still want more to be done.
Scottish Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf has already amended the bill to ensure an offence can only be committed if there is ‘intent’ to stir up hatred.
And he will also amend the section of the bill covering freedom of expression and religion so that ‘mere expressions of antipathy, dislike, ridicule and insult’ will not be criminalised.
Last year, atheist campaigners said they hoped to use the new laws against evangelical preachers, and to criminalise parts of the Bible.
Scottish Conservative justice spokesman Liam Kerr MSP said the bill remains ‘dangerously flawed’ because the concessions do not address its core issues. He highlighted that the Scottish government has only made ‘minor changes around the margins instead of removing the clear attacks on freedom of speech’.
The bill lacks robust free speech clauses including a ‘dwelling defence’ to defend private conversation in the home.