Artists, writers and activists have joined Index and other NGOs in calling on the Scottish government to redraft a proposed new bill.
Rowan Atkinson, Mary “Doll” Nesbit, actor Elaine C Smith, Peter Tatchell and former Scottish Arts Council director Dame Seona Reid have written a joint letter to argue that the wording of the proposed Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill while well meaning risks “stifling freedom of expression, and the ability to articulate or criticise religious and other beliefs”.
Organisations including the Humanist Society Scotland and Scottish PEN as well as Index signed the letter.
The letter comes as the Scottish Parliament considers the wording of the bill which the Scottish Government says “provides for the modernising, consolidating and extending of hate crime legislation in Scotland” and will “provide greater clarity, transparency and consistency”.
The signatories to the letter say they welcome the provisions to consolidate existing aggravated hate crimes and the repeal of the blasphemy law. However, they add that the bill as currently drafted “creates a stirring up offence that does not examine the intention behind the action; a crime is committed merely because someone’s words, actions, or artwork might stir up hatred and regardless of their intentions”.