CONTROVERSIAL hate crime proposals are still a threat to free speech, opponents have warned – despite Humza Yousaf being forced to rewrite and drop large parts of the legislation.

Holyrood’s Justice Committee warned that changes to the Bill were needed before the legislation could be agreed, with Mr Yousaf, the Justice Secretary, confirmed he has accepted the “overwhelming majority of the recommendations”.

The Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill aims to update existing laws for protected characteristics such as disability, race, religion, sexual orientation and transgender identity.

The latest changes come after Mr Yousaf last month announced plans to amend the legislation after an outcry over proposals on offences of “stirring-up hatred”, which critics fear will stifle freedom of expression.

Section 5 of the Bill, which deals with offences relating to possession of inflammatory materials has been binned by the Scottish Government after concerns were raised from some faith groups, artists and authors.

READ MORE: Hate Crime Bill: Humza Yousaf pledges further changes

Scotland’s Catholic bishops raised concerns that possessing the Bible could become an offence under the proposed legislation – which is to be debated in Holyrood on Tuesday.

The Scottish Government said there would now be a strengthening of the protection for freedom of expression provisions in the legislation.

Ministers will also propose new limits on police powers of search and entry within the Bill But the Scottish Conservatives, who have long been critical of the proposals, has told ministers to go further in making changes to the legislation, claiming the plans still pose a threat to freedom of speech.

The party has warned that there is still no protection for things said in the privacy of a person's home.

Scottish Conservative shadow justice spokesman, Liam Kerr, said: “We have been consistent in our opposition to attacks on freedom of speech contained in what is the most controversial bill in the history of the Scottish Parliament.

“While today’s climbdown by the SNP is welcome it is also long overdue and clearly does not go far enough.

“Tinkering is not going to fix this bill’s significant problems, which risk striking at the heart of freedom of speech.”

Mr Yousaf said he welcomed the support of Holyrood’s Justice Committee for “their support for the general principles of the Bill”.

He added: “I have accepted the overwhelming majority of the recommendations from the committee and will bring forward amendments at Stage 2 designed to, amongst other matters, strengthen protections for freedom of expression.

“Through the whole process I have listened to concerns raised and proposed amendments to be introduced at Stage 2 of the Bill to address these concerns. That approach will not change. I will continue to listen to concerns members may have about any aspect of the Bill and, where possible, will try and reach common ground.

“Confronting hate crime is central to building the safer, stronger and inclusive Scotland that we all want to see.

“Our plans to legislate will ensure the law is fit for the 21st century and the Stage 1 debate will provide the opportunity for MSPs to come together to support the general principles of this legislation to tackle hate crime, giving sufficient protection to those who need it.”