“So much ignorance”

When people scaremonger about proposed legislation, it’s a safe bet that they are ignorant of the existing legislation and of similar legislation in other countries: if they weren’t, they wouldn’t be scaremongering.

The manufactured controversy over Scotland’s proposed hate crime legislation – a controversy largely fuelled by religious groups and the right-wing press – appears to fit the pattern. It’s focused on the offences of “stirring up hatred”, which we’re told will be the end of civilisation as we know it.

Here’s lecturer and commentator Andrew Tickell, who knows a thing or two about the law.

The debate on Holyrood’s Hate Crime Bill is eminently necessary and important – but by gum, it is already characterised by so much ignorance about (a) what the law already is and (b) often misplaced hysteria about what the law will be if this Bill is passed.

For one thing, for the various unionists going crackers, it is probably important to know that the headline offences of stirring up hatred on the grounds of race, religion and sexual orientation are already criminal offences in England and Wales under the Public Order Act 1986.

That’s the thing about bringing legislation in line with other countries: when people tell us the sky will fall in, we can see if identical legislation caused the sky to fall in elsewhere.