A PROTEST has been held outside the Scottish Parliament to mark “the end of free speech in Scotland” as the Hate Crime and Public Order Act comes into force.

The legislation, which was passed by MSPs back in 2021, consolidates existing hate crime laws while adding a new offence of “stirring up hatred” against people based on their age, religion, disability, sexual orientation or transgender identity.

A similar law against stirring up racial hatred has been on the statute across the UK since 1987.

However, the Hate Crime Act has been subject to vocal opposition from free speech organisations, gender critical campaigners, and numerous politicians.

They fear that the law may be used against them and have a chilling effect on the free expression of their opinions.

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The Scottish Government has said there is a “very high threshold” for prosecution under the new law but some opponents, including Tory MSP Murdo Fraser, say the recording of non-crime hate incidents by the police amounts to a breach of their human rights.

The SNP MP Joanna Cherry has also said that she believes the law “will be weaponised by trans rights activists to try to silence, and worse still criminalise, women who do not share their beliefs”.

On Monday, a mixture of Christian fundamentalists, gender critical activists, Scottish Family Party members, free speech advocates, Unionist campaigners and individuals concerned about the legislation gathered outside Holyrood.

While the protest was ostensibly about the hate crime law, many attendees took the opportunity to express their thoughts on topics such as the SNP, transgender identity, abortion rights and even the result of the 2020 US Presidential election.

The Unionist campaign group A Force For Good held a banner which read: “Get Humza Out” while another protester held a sign which said “Trump Won”.

The National:

Shouts of “a man can’t become a woman” and “yay transphobia” were also heard during the protest, which was hosted by social media campaigner Glasgow Cabbie.

At one point a speaker listed the names of SNP politicians to a chorus of boos. After mention of Nicola Sturgeon one male protester shouted “jail the b****”.

“We don’t want to say nasty things about groups of people or ostracise them,” said Jane, a protester who was not affiliated with any group.

“It’s not about that. It’s about the way in which it’s framed, which is really another erosion of our rights as human beings just to be left alone or have an opinion, even in your own house.

“It’s the SNP today but it’s laying the grounds for any government in the future to decide what it thinks is hate speech.”

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Niall Fraser of the Scottish Family Party told The National that the law was “alien to Scottish culture”.

He added: “It’s my right to be able to offend people.

“At the same time, the onus is on the person to be offended or not. That’s a choice. This choice is then going to lead to criminalisation of people.

“We’ve got Wings Over Scotland fans, we’ve got humanists, we’ve got No Men in Female Jails. It’s such a wide net of groups we’ve managed to bring together against this.

“But we’re particularly concerned that our party’s views on marriage may trigger this hate crime law.

The National:

“Our belief that it’s more beneficial for a child to grow up in a household with a male and female parent will be deemed a hate crime.” Fraser also said that he’d like to see the laws against stirring up racial hatred, which have existed since 1987, repealed.

One protester, who described herself only as a “God-loving woman”, said she objected to a “tiny minority forcing their agenda on the Scottish population”.

“It’s a travesty not only to biology and spirituality but just to living,” she said.

“This is beyond politics. We’ve just got minion puppets in Parliament writing legislation so our children can be ruined before they even start.

“Not one of them is in favour of children. Every single party is for abortion.

“This is so satanic. As a Christian, if someone comes to me and says I’m struggling with my sexuality, unless I say have at it and go gay, I can be put in prison. No.”

There is no evidence that failing to encourage people to "go gay" would see a person criminalised under the Hate Crime Act.

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A 25-year-old transgender woman holding her own counter protest said she was surprised at the mixture of groups in attendance.

“This legislation protects numerous groups but yet half the signs here are having a go at trans people. It’s as if these people feel like their right to have a go at us is under threat.

“There’s people who call themselves feminists here standing alongside evangelical Christians who against a woman’s right to have a termination, even in a case of sexual assault.

“I’d thought they’d have been at each other’s throats. But it appears that the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

“I’m came down here to say that I’m not a caricature, I’m a flesh and blood human being and the dehumanising rhetoric peddled against trans people is actively making our lives worse and putting us in danger.”

At the conclusion of the protest – which amassed a crowd of around 300 people – a coffin was brought it to symbolise the “death of free speech in Scotland”.