411 snitching centres across Scotland

It starts today.

From next month in Scotland you’ll be able to drop into a sex shop, make an anonymous accusation of hate crime against someone you dislike and potentially see your bete noir locked up. You think I’m joking – that this is an April Fool come early. I only wish it [were]. In two weeks’ time, this will be the law of the land in Scotland under the SNP’s iniquitous Hate Crime Act which makes ‘stirring up hatred’ a criminal offence punishable by 7 years in jail.  

The sex shop in question is an LGBTQ-friendly establishment in Glasgow’s Merchant City. It is a ‘third-party reporting centre’ set up by Police Scotland to make it easier to accuse someone of hate crime. There will be 411 of these snitching centres across Scotland located everywhere from mushroom farms to caravan sites. Trans activists across the land will be able to accuse JK Rowling, 24/7, of being a transphobe. 

I have questions. Isn’t all this accusing someone of hate crime itself “stirring up hatred”? Can’t we in turn just accuse our accuser of “stirring up hatred”? Won’t the whole thing just turn into a dense knot of people accusing each other until they run out of breath?

The trans campaigner India Willoughby has already tried to have the novelist prosecuted for misgendering him/her. After the complaint was dismissed by Northumberland Police, Willoughby’s supporters made clear they will be accusing her in Scotland. They might even succeed.

Oh? We have boatloads of examples of Willz stirring up hatred. He hardly ever does anything else.

The Scottish government’s definition of ‘stirring up hatred’ is so vague that ministers have given up trying to explain it. They just refer you to the Police Scotland website where a hate crime is defined as ‘any crime which is understood by the victim or any other person as being motivated, wholly or partly[,] by malice or ill will towards a social group’. 

Well then it’s a crime we’re all convicted of the second the accusation is made. If all it needs is someone “understanding” what you say as being motivated, wholly or partly by malice or ill will towards a social group then there is no way you can defend yourself against the charge. You can’t prove that your accuser doesn’t understand it that way, and neither can anyone else. Bang: guilty as charged.

The Scottish Police Federation, an organisation not perhaps known for defending freedom of speech, has warned that the law would ‘paralyse freedom of expression for individuals and organisations by threatening prosecution for the mere expression of opinion’. The First Minister, Humza Yousaf, insisted that this was scaremongering and no one could be prosecuted for what they think. However, it is clear that what they say can and will be prosecuted if the ‘victims’ perceive what they think and say to be discriminatory. 

If no one will be prosecuted for what they think, why is the law worded the way it is?

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