MID Scotland and Fife MSP Alex Rowley has urged the Justice Secretary to go back to the drawing board to address fundamental problems with the Scottish Government’s proposed Hate Crime Bill.

The draft legislation has drawn criticism from across civic Scotland, with concerns being raised by the Law Society, the Scottish Police Federation, the Catholic Church and the National Secular Society.

Critics are concerned the laws as proposed will inhibit free speech to an extent beyond what is necessary and also result in the criminalisation of legitimate views. The Scottish Police Federation also said the draft law as worded is too vague as to be able to implement.

Commenting on the Bill in a debate in the Scottish Parliament, Mr Rowley said: “Prejudice has no place in 21st century Scotland and we all need to work together to play our part and educate current and future generations on why it is wrong to discriminate. However, the Hate Crime Bill in its current form is not fit for purpose.

“I urge the Scottish Government to get back to working with stakeholders in order to fix the myriad of problems that have come to light.

"While we do want the Bill to be robust in how it deals with legitimate hate crimes, it must also protect the rights we enjoy with regard to free speech as has been highlighted by a considerable number of submissions in the call for views on the Bill".

The Kelty based MSP added “Had the Government listened to the multiple stakeholders who expressed deep concerns about these aspects of the Bill it would not have been so controversial. I hope that once amended, this Bill can achieve the support that a Bill tackling hate crime deserves, but that will not be the case unless the Government make considerable changes and help alleviate the genuine concerns being raised.”