While I would not wish to comment on what is still, as sentencing has yet to be decided, an ongoing court case, I am a strong supporter of free speech. Freedom of speech is the basis of our democracy, our civil society, and our culture, and the authorities must protect and defend it.
That said, the hate speech laws that we have in this country are an important and necessary part of ensuring that we live in a tolerant society, free from abuse. Some of those laws, for example, are necessary to stop genuine cases of incitement to racial hatred and violence.
Justice and policing are devolved issues here in Scotland, and so the Scottish Parliament is responsible both for the laws relating to ‘hate speech’ and for overseeing how Police Scotland enforces any such laws.
I understand that the Scottish Government has commissioned an independent review into hate crime legislation, which is due to conclude in the coming months. I hope that, when considering how to act on the review’s findings, the Scottish Government keeps the importance of free speech in mind.
My Scottish Conservative colleagues in Holyrood share my belief in freedom of speech, and I am proud that they have now succeeded in their long struggle to repeal the SNP’s Offensive Behaviour at Football Act, which was an unnecessary, unwanted, and ineffective law that I and my fellow Scottish Conservatives have consistently opposed as an assault on free speech.