SNP’s new hate crime law could criminalise past views warns historian Neil Oliver

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The Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill introduced by Scottish Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf looks to extend the law on ‘hate crime’ covering particular characteristics, including religion, sexual orientation and transgender identity. If the law is passed by Holyrood, it means that words or behaviour considered to be “abusive” and “likely” to stir up hatred would constitute an offence.

People who were found guilty of “stirring up hatred” would face up to seven years in prison under the legislation. 

However, the controversial legislation has already faced criticism from the Comedian Rowan Atkinson, Scottish Police Federation, Catholic Church in Scotland and the Faculty of Advocates who represent lawyers and the  Law Society of Scotland.

But TV presenter and historian Neil Oliver spoke out and claimed that the new law, which is currently out for consultation, could criminalise people for having controversial views and strong opinions.

Mr Oliver, who has expressed strong support for the Union, admitted he had suffered abuse because of holding this view and claimed that an “ugly”’ atmosphere had grown in Scotland.

In a letter, Mr Oliver said: “Since 2014 when I spoke up in support of the Union, I have been told I am no Scot – or at least that I am the wrong sort of Scot. 

“I have continued to speak up – for that is my right – and now I read around the subject of the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill and see that in future, opinions of the sort I have aired in the past could see me do jail time, as much as a seven year stretch. 

“I will be listening for the knock at the door.”

Mr Oliver warned Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf that the Bill was a “passion project” for the politician.

He added: “Intended, according to Yousaf, to simplify and clarify current laws by bringing them together in a single piece of legislation, the wording therein makes way for woolliness that ought, according to spokesmen for the legal profession, to have no place in a document defining the law of the land.”

He also references the abuse he suffered in response to his support for the Union adding: “Already a regular target for what might safely be described as strongly worded criticism, on account of my approving of a United Kingdom, I invite you to imagine what my future might be like if my enemies have the weight of Scots law on their side.

“If I arrive at court and the verdict goes against me, I could legally declare myself a woman and end up, if she’s not careful either, in the cell next to JK Rowling.”

Refering to Harry Potter author JK Rowling views on transgender people, Mr Oliver said: “She, too, has been accused of hate crime for her stance in relation to men, women and the biology thereof.

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“I have spoken in support of her freedom of speech and so, in theory, we might end up in the dock together.”

It comes after Mr Oliver announced he was stepping down as president of the National Trust for Scotland.

The TV presenter was heavily criticised last month after it emerged that he had liked an anti-Black Lives Matter tweet forcing him to make the decision. 

In response to the concerns, a Scottish Government spokeswoman told “The Bill does not seek to stifle criticism or rigorous debate in any way.

“People can express controversial, challenging or offensive views as long as this is not done in a threatening or abusive way that is intended or likely to stir up hatred.

“The Bill includes explicit provisions on protection of freedom of expression.”

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