HUMZA Yousaf has been given a deadline to notify Holyrood of changes to the SNP’s controversial Hate Crime Bill.

Holyrood’s Justice Committee said it wanted Mr Yousaf to bring forward any fundamental amendments by the parliament’s autumn recess in mid-October.

The committee is due to start its Stage One inquiry into the Bill immediately after the break.

It follows the Justice Secretary telling MSPs on Wednesday he was planning a ministerial statement on the Bill in light of a record 2,000 written submissions about it.

He said he wanted to update parliament as soon as possible, but gave no specifics on timing.

Mr Yousaf said he was looking at the “stirring up” section of the Bill, which critics claim could stifle freedom of speech and criminalise merely insulting language.

The Bill would update the characteristics protected in law from hate crimes and introduce a new offence for behaviour “likely” to stir up hatred, whether it was done intentionally or not.

Scotland’s judges, sheriffs, rank and file police officers, prosecutors, churches, actors, and writers have queried the legislation.

The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service suggested a proposed race hate offence of “insulting” behaviour could be covered by “threatening and abusive” behaviour instead.

After publishing 150 submissions from organisations, the Justice Committee is planning to publish 1,850 submissions from individuals in batches over several weeks.

Convener Adam Tomkins said the stirring up offences had been “the single biggest issue” in terms of responses and “heat generated”.

However the other parts of the Bill would not be ignored, as it would be “looked at in the round”.

He said the parliament had set a deadline for completion of the Stage One inquiry, on the Bill’s general principles, of December 18.

Given the volume of submissions and the need to hear from “a significant number of witnesses”, the inquiry would need to start its work after October recess.

He said: “It’s really important that [Mr Yousaf’s ministerial statement] happens before the committee starts its Stage One inquiry.

“We want to have a Stage One inquiry into legislation which the Government is proposing, not into legislation the Government used to be proposing and has now changed its mind about.

“So we’ll want all of that to be done before the committee starts work on its Stage One inquiry, which will be pretty much immediately after the October recess.”

He said some individual submissions were generating administrative “headaches”, as people had requested anonymity or said “legally very difficult things”.

However he welcomed the level of engagement from the public.

He said: “It’s unambiguously a good thing that the people of Scotland are actively engaging in law making for the people of Scotland with the Scottish Parliament.

“The extent to which we want to legislate to criminalise hateful expression in a liberal society that continues to adhere to the values of freedom of speech is obviously not a straightforward matter. It is a matter on which reasonable people may reasonably disagree.”