A CALL for the Scottish Government’s new hate crime laws to be repealed has been defeated at Holyrood.

The Scottish Tories put forward a motion today calling for the Hate Crime and Public Order Scotland Act – which was already voted through Parliament in 2021 but only came into force on April 1 – to be repealed.

But the motion ultimately failed, with an SNP amendment removing the word "repeal" passing with 64 MSPs voting yes, 29 voting no and 25 abstentions.

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The Scottish Tories have consistently been against the legislation, arguing that it would have a chilling effect on free speech.

Speaking in Holyrood on Wednesday, Tory justice spokesman Russell Findlay described it as a “clipe’s charter” – referring to a Scots word for someone who tells on other people.

“From April Fool’s Day, (the Act) has transformed Scotland into a place of international mockery,” he said.

“It’s transformed the birthplace of the Enlightenment into a place where free speech has been de-based and de-valued – a place of sinister police billboards instructing people to snitch on those who hurt their feelings.”

The Act created a new offence of stirring up hatred against some protected characteristics – expanding a similar statute already on the books for race – but Justice Secretary Angela Constance said this week just nine instances of stirring up hatred were recorded in the first two weeks of the Act being in effect.

Responding to Findlay, community safety minister Siobhian Brown said there had been “vexatious complaints” made “in order to overwhelm police systems” and she called on all MSPs to “send a strong message to all those making vexatious complaints to stop doing so”.

The minister also took aim at the Tories, saying: “I understand that the Conservatives want this Act to fail because they need to justify why they didn’t support it in 2021, so they will do everything they can to discredit it.

“However, my message to you is that it will not work.

“Legislation that protects people from hatred is not new, it is still needed, and the misinformation that has surrounded this Act has been irresponsible.”

She added: “Let’s all stop the gutter politics and the scaremongering and, as elected members, take responsibility to protect some of the most vulnerable people in our communities.”

Scottish Labour backed the legislation when it was passed in 2021, but has criticised the implementation in recent weeks.

The party’s justice spokeswoman, Pauline McNeill, lamented that sex was left out of the Act in favour of a standalone Bill on misogyny.

“Three years on, there is still no sign of the legislation which was promised within one year of passing the 2021 Act,” she said.

“So we call on the Scottish Government to reconsider and bring sex as an aggravator now.”

McNeill also urged the Parliament to carry out “urgent” post-legislative scrutiny to look at how the Act was implemented.

Speaking ahead of the debate, the First Minister told journalists the Tory push to repeal the legislation was “disgraceful”, adding that – if the push was successful – “there would be no protection against hatred, so people would have carte blanche to espouse hatred against people because of the colour of their skin, or their religion, or their sexual orientation or disability or any other characteristics”.