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” could face up to seven years in jail.
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, Anas Sarwar said that the Bill risks “fracturing the coalition we need to build across Scotland to defeat hate.”
Mr Sarwar who is the MP for Glasgow Central and the son of Mohammad Sarwar; the first-ever Muslim MP in the UK, said: “The Justice Secretary and I recognise the importance of challenging hate crime and defeating prejudice and hatred.
“Sadly, for us and many others, it is often a daily experience.
“I know we both share the same ambition and would want the same outcome – to make Scotland a more equal and fairer country, where everyone has the same opportunity no matter their race or religion.
“There are lots of important things in this Bill, including consolidating aggravation, adding vulnerability and sex, and removing outdated blasphemy laws.
“But the way that aspects of the Bill are currently drafted and the narrative that has built around it risks undermining the very purpose of the Bill itself. This risks fracturing the coalition we need to build across Scotland to defeat hate.”
It comes just hours after Mr Yousaf had contemplated leaving politics following threats he had received but said he fully intends to stand firm as quitting would hand victory to those who perpetrate hatred.
The threats came from a video which was posted on the website of a right-wing media platform where campaigners criticised Mr Yousaf over the new hate crime legislation.
Speaking today, Mr Yousaf said: “I can’t really remember a time when there hasn’t been racist abuse but, generally speaking, it has not been particularly violent or threatening.
“What is different about the recent emails is the clear depiction of violence towards myself and towards my family.
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“I know 99 percent of the time, these are keyboard warriors but the concern is, could there be that one percent that actually are unhinged enough to act upon the threats that they make?
“For the first time, I had the fleeting thought ‘I just don’t know if doing the job I do is worth putting my family at potential risk’.”
Police Scotland are investigating the incident with a spokesman saying today: “Police Scotland can confirm it has received a complaint of offensive communications and inquiries are ongoing.”
In response to the concerns, a Scottish Government spokeswoman told Express.co.uk: “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 the protection of freedom of expression.”