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Hate crime law protesters ‘bury’ free speech at Holyrood

HUNDREDS of protesters have held a “funeral” for free speech at Holyrood after new hate crime legislation came into force.

Attendees in opposition to the law ranged across the political spectrum, from libertarian and gender-critical activists to the socially conservative Scottish Family Party (SFP), which brought a coffin bearing images of both the First Minister Humza Yousaf and his Green cabinet colleague Patrick Harvie.

SFP member Niall Fraser said “free speech has died here in Scotland. Today we buried it and had a funeral service.”

Artist Mark Leslie branded the new law “ammunition for bigots” and “the opposite of the Scottish Enlightenment.”

Particular concerns have continued to be raised by gender-critical activists who opposed recent legislation, later vetoed by the UK government, to allow self-identification of gender, amid fears of a flood of “vexatious” complaints they argue could have a chilling effect on the debate.

Scottish Lesbians’ Sally Wainwright commented: “This act will make it more difficult for us to speak.

“It completely interferes with freedom of speech.

“The Scottish government legislative programme has been about giving men more rights to interfere with what were women’s rights, and giving men more rights to come into women’s spaces.

“I don’t wish anybody any harm, I just don’t want men in our space, and I could be accused of a hate crime.”

Fellow gender-critical activist Lisa from Edinburgh, said: “It is like what happened in Germany where children spied on their parents.

“It’s scary. It’s very subjective what hate is, they are conflating ‘hate’ with ‘offensive.’ It’s like the Hitler Youth.”

Responding, Lauren Harper, youth rep on Scottish Labour’s executive, took aim at the protesters and the apparent silence of opposition MSPs in both her own party and the Liberal Democrats, who had backed the legislation alongside SNP and Green colleagues in 2021.

She called the outrage over recent days “entirely ridiculous considering it is simply to bring us in line with UK law.”

“You are still free to criticise things like religion for example, as long as you aren’t horrible about it,” she told the Star.

“I have to question why those outraged by the Bill think that the only way they can criticise religion is through nastiness. 

“Scottish Labour supported and voted for the legislation so their inability to stand up for their decision is frankly cowardice.

“It leaves me wondering if we truly are ready to govern if we slink away whenever things we vote for are criticised.”

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