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FMQs: Yousaf dismisses valid concerns about ‘weaponisation’ of Hate Crime Act

Humza Yousaf today dismissed concerns about the potential for the SNP’s Hate Crime Act to be “weaponised to tarnish the name of innocent people” and have a “chilling effect on free speech”.

At First Minister’s Questions, he faced criticism for serious flaws in the Hate Crime Act he passed as justice secretary.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross cited the spurious complaint made against Murdo Fraser MSP and the police record he received for criticising SNP Government policy, despite no crime being committed.

Mr Ross said that incident was “just the tip of the iceberg” and the controversial new hate crime law could force police to deal with many more “malicious complaints” designed to target opponents with police investigations.

He raised a letter to Holyrood’s criminal justice committee from the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents, which said some individuals “will seek to ‘weaponise’ the new legislation and associated police investigation”.

The Scottish Conservative leader also quoted senior SNP MP Joanna Cherry, who has said: “For many, the process will be the punishment. Being under police investigation will be stressful, costly, damaging to reputations and could lead to problems in the workplace.”

Mr Ross also highlighted warnings from Katharina Kasper, chair of the Scottish Police Authority’s complaints and conduct committee, that a police investigation itself can “become a punishment which may have a chilling effect on the freedom of expression”.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: “The spurious complaint and police investigation against Murdo Fraser MSP is just the tip of the iceberg.

“How can it be right that innocent people are put on the police record when they have done nothing wrong?

“The SNP’s Hate Crime Act will come into force in just a few days and this controversial new law is ripe for abuse.

“Police should not be dispatched to people’s doors to check their thinking.

“The Hate Crime Act is so flawed that, whatever its intentions, it’s likely to create more division and have a chilling effect on free speech.

“Overworked, under-resourced police officers will be forced to deal with hundreds of malicious complaints.

“Humza Yousaf’s law could be weaponised to tarnish the name of innocent people with opposing views and seek to silence them, as senior police officers have warned.

“This law is an overreach by the SNP. How long will it be before the Hate Crime Act goes the same way as Named Persons, Offensive Behaviour at Football, Gender Recognition Reform and every other flawed SNP law?”