The Scottish government will redraft controversial hate crime legislation after the justice secretary Humza Yousaf admitted to the Holyrood chamber today that they could curb freedom of speech.
The original proposal caused a storm of objection, in particular over plans to criminalise the act of “stirring up hated”, which opponents said was an attack on freedom of expression and which drew a record number of responses to the consultation and criticism both from the police and writers and artists, including comic Rowan Atkinson, writer Val McDermid and actress Elaine C Smith.
Today Yousaf said the legislation will now make it clear there has to be “intent” to stir up hatred against any group. He said:
I recognise that there is a real risk that if the offences don’t require intent to stir up hatred, people may self-censor their activities through a perception that the operation of this aspect of the offences may be used to prosecute what are entirely legitimate acts of expression.
But Scottish Conservative and Liberal Democrat critics argued that this will not solve the fundamental problem with the legislation.
Reactions were mixed, to say the least, when the prime minister yesterday told MPs that chief constables would soon be able to “draw on military support where required”.
Although his spokesperson later assured reporters that this did not mean troops on the streets to enforce new guidelines, but rather backfilling posts to free up more officers, it’s looking unlikely to be an issue north of the border.
While defence is reserved, policing is devolved, and Police Scotland calmly but firmly squashed the offer today, stating: “At the moment no military involvement is necessary, nor do we anticipate it will be needed.”
Hospital numbers, and ventilation cases, rising in England, Scotland and Wales, latest figures show
Gove says lorries heading abroad will need permit to enter Kent
Michael Gove has confirmed a de facto internal border for international truckers in the UK post Brexit.
Any lorry heading to Dover for onward travel to Calais will have to have a special “Kent access permit” with police and and automatic number plate recognition cameras ensuring they don’t get into the county unless they have the right paperwork for the ferry or Eurotunnel train.
In reply to Ashford MP Damian Green, Gove told the Common while making his statement earlier:
People [will] use a relatively simple process in order to get what will become known as a Kent access permit, which means that they can then proceed smoothly through Kent.
This is the first time the Brexit passport or KAP has been confirmed by the government.
One transport industry leader said:
This is why people have been talking about an internal border in Kent. But the question we cannot get answered from the government is how it will work unless there are police checking electronically or physically every vehicle going into the county.
The same point was made by Labour MP Angela Eagle at the Treasury select committee on Tuesday. “Who’s going to be patrolling the Kent borders to make sure that no lorry goes into Kent if it hasn’t got that passport?” she asked. “Where are the border posts for going into Kent going to be? It’s all very well saying we are going to need it, but are we going to have Kent border police or border guards?”
UK records 6,178 new coronavirus cases - close to record from early May
The Welsh first minister, Mark Drakeford, has struck a slightly more optimistic note than Boris Johnson, making clear that Wales will continue to review its regulations every three weeks and stressing that freedoms can be restored as well as being taken away.
Asked about the prime minister’s warning that restrictions may be in place for six months, Drakeford told the Guardian:
We review our regulations every three weeks. They moved away from that in England quite early on. We have stuck that three-week rhythm, which means we have been able to fine tune things, either restoring freedoms or having to restrict things further. Six months is a very long time in this business. We are trying to be flexible and swift.
Drakeford pointed out that public health officials were “cautiously optimistic” that a corner had been turned in one of the Welsh local lockdown areas – Caerphilly. He said:
For the last three or four days the daily reports we have are showing a very steady reduction. We need to see more days. We need to see that happen for the rest of the week. Then I think we will feel confident that we’ve got a sustainable pattern of improvement.
Drakeford repeated his call for people in Wales to think carefully before they travelled at al and he said he had tried to persuade Johnson to echo the same message in England. But, Drakeford said: “For whatever reason the prime minister never seems to have been attracted to that stay local mantra in England.”