Hate Crime Law

It’s about to become a criminal offence to stir up hatred against certain groups in Scotland, but the laws are controversial with some commentators saying it will serve to stifle Free Speech.

I’m joined now by political commentator and former MSP Brian Monteith, welcome Brian. Hi there, great to be on the show again thanks. Good to see you, now you’ve said, I’ve read your recent remarks suggesting that the hate crime laws in Scotland could make Scotland a laughing stock. Would you elaborate on that thought?

Yes, what it is, is that there’s an incentive within this system that has been brought in for people to actually make vexatious complaints. That is complaints without any real substance simply because in the sense they’re hate based themselves to take down political opponents or to silence people such as JK Rowling who they see as the enemy.

There are perverse incentives involved because even if the police do not consider a crime has been committed they can then record a non-hate crime incident and that can then be put on file and the supposed victim of what is not a crime is told all this but it happens without the person who’s accused of the crime but has not committed a crime then being told that they are a hate crime incident.

Freedom of Speech

It is absolutely absurd because then activists very hatefully ironically can then go about complaining about everybody trying to force the police to smother them and smother their free speech, so this is going to create more hate, more division in society rather than actually trying and calm people down.

Just one other thing, freedom of speech means being able to take hurty words and that’s quite a different thing from inciting violence. Inciting violence should be a crime but just saying hurty words about I don’t like these people because they have green faces or the wrong religion you know, quite a different thing from violence.

Andrew Eborn, yes it for me apart from anything else it is the imprecision yeah that’s there in the language of the legislation. I would have thought that something that is the law, going to be the law of the land we’d have to give lawyers and the police and everyone else absolute certainty, but the notion that someone just comes to the authorities and says that that is hateful, who makes that decision?

You’re absolutely right there needs to be certainty for all involved including those enforcing the law. They need to have certainty as to what constitutes this hate speech, it’s what I said beforehand is freedom of speech but not freedom from consequences. What you need to do is you mustn’t stifle freedom of speech, it’s essential that we question everything, we encourage other people to express alternative views.

What we don’t want to do is have the hate speech which turns into violence and so on and so forth and I think that’s what we need to look at, but when you’re having woolly language what I call woolly language it makes it difficult for those enforcing it as you say. You could get a whole catalogue of people saying there have been numerous complaints about hate speech against an individual because people have points to score.

4,000 Non-Crime hate Incidents in first 24 Hours of Law

Brian it’s not just us obviously voicing reservations about all of this you know the Dean of the Faculty of Advocates, the people representing the police you know during the course of this bill’s progress through Hollywood have raised concerns. It does say something about that Administration in Hollywood that they have just pushed and pushed and pushed ahead with something that all sorts of smarter brains were telling them not to do.

Well, this is actually political activism making law it’s SNP and the greens like to talk about consultation but they actually turn a deaf ear to the consultation. The truth of it is how this will be used and why is so important to them is because at once there are so many hate crimes being recorded as incidents, they don’t have to be crimes, then they will say we were right because there’s all these hate crime incidents and look how the numbers are going up.

Of course, as I say the perverse incentives push these and push people to do to make more and so from the back off the rise in supposed hate crime incidents they’ll need more draconian laws, more shutting down of free speech and it’s very interesting that this particular law does not protect women, but it protects all sorts of other groups i.e. the groups who pushed the law, but at the expense of women’s rights.

Women are the targets here there’s absolutely no doubt about it and because JK Rowling has been quite reasonable in what she’s said and my estimation but obviously is a figurehead to many they are seeking to try and take people like her down and gain more laws out of it.

Andrew what it comes down to for me is when did any government get it in its head that it should be telling the people who pay their wages yes what to see and even what to think. Hamza Yousaf wants people criminalized for things they say in the privacy of their own home, it’s that famous t-shirt isn’t it think while it’s still free to do so, and that’s the reality.

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Courts will be Swamped

I mean you have to have a system where you can basically have those whose views you disagree with, they must have a platform to express those views that’s the whole idea of freedom of speech and what’s going to happen if on the 1st of April, appropriate date as you pointed out we’re going to get precedents going to come up. We’re going to see what happens with JK Rowling and the statements and see whether that’s accused of being a hate speech under that new legislation.

This is going to happen I think it’s a very dangerous ground we’re on at the moment because of the wooliness. Dangerous ground, just a last word from you what do you, how do you see this developing are we just going to see a glut of mischievous cases swamping the courts that already struggle to cope with the workload?

I think there are many people in Scotland who will not be able to contain themselves or show any patience and are likely to submit continual complaints they probably have them already lined up and it will place immense pressure on the police who have said they will investigate every complaint when they’re not investigating every burglary, every car theft.

It just makes the law look an ass, it makes people think that it’s not protecting them and not protecting their property and it’s all being done like student union politics, it’s not living in the real world where people actually have to live and work and raise families.

Well Brian Monteith speaking for myself as someone who’s  aired various opinions about various things in the public domain over the years, I await April Fool’s Day with some interest but Brian Monteith thanks very much for joining us this evening.