The Hate and Public Order Act is a direct threat against freedom of speech - GP Taylor

There was a time when the saying ‘sticks and stones may break my bones but calling names won’t hurt me,’ aptly described how insults lacked power. That sentiment is now a thing of the past as it seems everyone is now deeply offended by things that are said to them.

Skins have become so thin that they are now translucent and everyone who is upset by hurtful words is calling in the law. We now live in a pathetic world where everyone wants to be offended. Now, in Scotland, these people have the full backing of the law.

The Hate and Public Order Act (Scotland) came into effect on April Fool’s Day and is a direct threat against freedom of speech and runs contrary to British law and the Human Rights Act. Even if you do not live in Scotland, you could be guilty of a crime just by saying something deemed hateful on the internet or even in the privacy of your own home.

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Stand by for cops kicking down your door and dragging off Granny because she voices her worries over immigration and is grassed up by her snowflake, Gen Z, woke, grandchildren.

First Minister of Scotland Humza Yousaf (right) meets a member of staff during a visit to visit the National Treatment Centre at Victoria Hospital in Kirkcaldy, Fife. PIC: Lesley Martin /PA WireFirst Minister of Scotland Humza Yousaf (right) meets a member of staff during a visit to visit the National Treatment Centre at Victoria Hospital in Kirkcaldy, Fife. PIC: Lesley Martin /PA Wire
First Minister of Scotland Humza Yousaf (right) meets a member of staff during a visit to visit the National Treatment Centre at Victoria Hospital in Kirkcaldy, Fife. PIC: Lesley Martin /PA Wire

If you make a joke in private that one person finds offensive, there is a possibility you will be prosecuted. Only one source is required to verify a hate crime: the supposed victim.

Ricky Gervais will have to be very careful what he jokes about as stage performances are not exempt from the law.

If I were to say that a woman is an adult, human, female, there are only two genders and if you identify as a cat, you are mentally ill, I will commit an offence if someone feels threatened or offended. A comment like this could be perceived as stirring up hatred.

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That’s right, it is the perception of hurt that is the key. It is how the person feels that takes it from a comment to an offence and you don’t have to show an intention to hate.

According to Police Scotland hate crime will be rigorously investigated even if it means neglecting other criminal acts. As reported recently by the Telegraph, Police Scotland has for the first time admitted that its plans to stop investigating some crimes risks helping criminals, and will provide law-breakers with a major “tactical advantage”.

Chief Constable Jo Farrell told a meeting of the Scottish Police Authority that “we are talking about crimes of theft and criminal damage for example”.

Imagine that the theft of your car or the damage to your property will not be investigated, whilst hurting someone’s feelings will be thoroughly researched and people prosecuted.

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Please don’t think this ludicrous law covers just Scotland. If the so-called ‘hate’ can be read or heard in Scotland then you commit the offence no matter where you are.

David Kennedy, general secretary of the Scottish Police Federation, the union which represents rank-and-file officers, said the Hate Act was "a recipe for disaster”.

Also, don’t think for a moment that it will never be a law in England. Labour will see how the hate law is received in Scotland and given half the chance will adopt it here.

This Hate Act isn’t just about stopping freedom of speech, it is about stopping freedom of thought. A report by Dame Sara Khan found that more than 75 per cent of the public feel they can't speak their mind. How many more people will be threatened into silence by this draconian law? It is a sad state of affairs when people feel they cannot be honest about how they feel. Honesty and truth are crushed when freedom of thought is curtailed.

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Article 10 of the Human Rights Act protects our right to hold our own opinions and to express them freely without government interference. This includes the right to express our views aloud, and through the internet and social media. The Hate Act is government censorship of thought and speech directly from Orwell’s 1984.

The best-selling writer, JK Rowling, is already in the sights of trans activists who are threatening her with the full force of the law should she speak out on women’s rights. It should be noted that women in Scotland are not protected from hate under the act.

This legislation is a charter to stop free speech and divide society even further. Humza Yousaf is doing little more than virtue signalling his woke agenda to the world and protecting those who put him in power from legitimate criticism.

No one is beyond the reach of this law. Even though Yousaf has said that a crime is not committed by a person robustly stating their beliefs, he is wrong.

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In the end, the Hate Act is all about control. I foresee that this will be used in vexatious complaints by persistent militants to shut up people who disagree with a particular group or ideology. It is a death blow against democracy and the freedom of the individual.

This is a law that only a dictatorship would impose and as Victor Hugo said: “When dictatorship is a fact, rebellion becomes a right.”

GP Taylor is a writer and broadcaster who lives in Yorkshire.

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