HUMZA Yousaf has responded after the Scottish Tories announced they would force a vote on repealing Scotland’s new hate crime laws.

Douglas Ross’s party has opposed the Hate Crime Act since its inception although both Scottish Labour and LibDem MSPs backed the bill as it made its way through parliament.  

We told on Monday how the Scottish Tories have called on Anas Sarwar and Alex Cole-Hamilton’s parties to back their calls to repeal the legislation.

Speaking on the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme, Yousaf (below) was asked if it was time to repeal the laws after a “shaky start”.

The National:

“Not at all. I mean what we have seen with the introduction of the Hate Crime Act in the first week, in the first few days in particular, was a series I think of bad faith actors who decided to put in vexatious complaints in order to try to waste police time which is a pretty serious matter,” Yousaf said.

Last week, it was revealed that in the law’s first seven days, 7152 hate crime reports were made.

Asked if the number of “vexatious” complaints was an indication that the law was too vague, the First Minister replied: “No, it’s pretty clear actually. The law, part of the law of course, the act just consolidates existing hate crime law that existed already.

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“The extensions of offences, so for example the new stirring up offences which probably have garnered the most attention, well they’re very similar to the racial stirring up offence that existed and has existed for almost 40 years.

“The point is you had a number of bad faith actors, I read the article by The Observer which showed a leader of the far-right for example encouraging vexatious complaints.

“Now thankfully those vexatious complaints have dropped down quite considerably, 7000 complaints in the first week I believe of the Hate Crime Act being introduced, the daily complaints fell by about 90% so they’re falling.

“And as the Chief Constable and Police Scotland have said it had minimal impact on frontline policing.

“Let’s go back to why we have a Hate Crime Act. We have a Hate Crime Act because in 2021/22, we had almost 7000 reports of hate crime.

“And that’s reports of people being abused because of their race, because of the disability, because of their sexuality, because they were Jewish or Muslim, because of their religion and for a whole range of other characteristics.

“And that is why, for those who say they have a zero tolerance approach to hatred, well the law then must safeguard people in relation to that.”

The line to the First Minister was then lost on Good Morning Scotland although he did return quite quickly.

Asked specifically why biological sex was not classed as a protected characteristic, Yousaf said: “I think that’s a really reasonable question.

"There was consideration about whether to include sex or not but it was actually women’s groups, so groups that have represented women and girls not for years but decades, such as Women’s Aid, such as Zero Tolerance Scotland, such as Engender, Scotland’s, such as Rape Crisis Scotland who met with me as justice secretary at the time and made the very public comment that they thought the Hate Crime Act was not the right framework, they thought it was too narrow a framework to cover the very wide-ranging pervasive nature of misogyny.

“And they thought a standalone bill would be much better and of course we’ve consulted on a standalone bill and that would cover some offences that are covered by hate crime acts such as statutory aggravation, stirring up of hatred against women and girls but it goes further than that.

“It looks at, for example, offences of misogynistic harassment and so on and so forth so their view was that the hate crime bill given the wide-ranging nature of misogyny and of course how hate crime often helps to protect minority groups, women are not a minority group, their view, this is women’s groups views, was that actually there should be a standalone bill.”

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Asked if a misogyny law would cover trans women, Yousaf said it would “because they will often be the ones who suffer from threats of rape, for example, or threats of disfigurement”.

“It may be the case that a trans woman when for example they’re walking down the street and a threat of rape is made against them, the man who’s making the threat of rape against them doesn’t know if they’re a trans woman, they will very simply make that threat because their perception of that person is as a woman,” Yousaf added.