Missed opportunity of hate crime consultation

November 14, 2018

The Scottish Government has launched a consultation on reviewing Scotland’s Hate Crime Laws. Humanist Society Scotland made representations on a number of issues and had raised the prospect of using the legislation to scrap Scotland’s outdated Blasphemy law as part of the reforms. The consultation however makes no mention of Blasphemy.

Commenting on the publication of the Hate Crime consultation, Humanist Society Scotland Chief Executive, Gordon MacRae, said:

Gordon MacRae, Chief Exec of Humanist Society Scotland

The proposals as set out in the consultation are a missed opportunity for Scotland to close the centuries outdated law of Blasphemy in Scots law. At a time when the worlds attention has been heightened at the appalling treatment of Asia Bibi in Pakistan, the Scottish Government could have sent a strong message message by simply scrapping the common law offence.

Scotland will instead retain the embarrassment of being one of the last European nations to retain such a law on its books after Ireland voted by referendum to remove a similar restriction earlier this month. We will also be pushing for better protection for apostates under any forthcoming Hate Crime legislation which is currently missing from the proposals.

Gordon MacRae, Humanist Society Scotland

Humanist Society Scotland End Blasphemy Law Campaign Timeline

February 2016 – Religion in Scots Law report by academics at University of Glasgow, funded by Humanist Society Scotland, reveals the legal detail and history of the Scottish common law offence of Blasphemy

December 2016 – Humanist Society Scotland call on the Scottish Government to show ‘moral leadership’ and scrap Scotland’s Blasphemy law in light of IHEU’s international report on persecution of Humanists around the world through Blasphemy laws

July 2017 – The Scottish Government’s Justice Secretary responds to correspondence from a Humanist Society Scotland member saying they have “no plans” to scrap the law

August 2017 – Humanist Society Scotland gather public support through a petition calling on politicians to scrap the outdated laws

September 2017 – Humanist Society Scotland submit evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Petitions Committee of how Blasphemy laws are used around the world to persecute Humanists and minority faith groups. The Committee agree to write to the Scottish Government to ask them to consider scrapping the law

December 2018 – Humanist Society Scotland implore MSPs to scrap Scotland’s Blasphemy law at the annual Humanist Yuletide event in the Scottish Parliament

January 2018 – The Edinburgh Group of Humanist Society Scotland arrange a protest against Blasphemy laws around the world on the sport where student Thomas Aikenhead was hanged for blasphemy in Edinburgh 321 years previously

March 2018 – UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of Religion and Belief calls for the scrapping of blasphemy laws and states they are not compatible with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, signed by the UK in 1968

March 2018 – Scrapping Scotland’s Blasphemy Law becomes official SNP party policy.

May 2018 – Scottish Parliament hears from Humanist campaigners on need to end Scotland’s Blasphemy law

October 2018 – Ireland votes in a referendum to scrap Blasphemy law after Humanist Society Scotland distinguished support Stephen Fry is investigated by police for comments he made on a TV show

November 2018 – Scottish Government launch consultation on reforming Hate Crime laws which fails to propose to scrap Scotland’s Blasphemy law as suggested by campaigners

Humanist Society Scotland blog post on importance of scrapping Blasphemy law.

Humanist Society Scotland blog post on Hate Crime review and how it impacts atheists, humanists and apostates.

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