MSPS have approved the principles of controversial hate crime legislation seen as a threat to freedom of speech after the Scottish Government agreed to water it down.

Holyrood voted by 91 to 29 with one abstention to approve the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill at Stage 1.

A vote on the accompanying financial resolution had to be abandoned after technical difficulties online.

The Bill will now proceed to its detailed committee stage, where the Government and opposition have an opportunity to amend it.

The Bill, promoted by Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf, has been criticised by religious organisations, charities, academics, legal and policing bodies. 

Opponents say it restricts freedom on speech, including in the home.

Holyrood’s Justice Committee also demanded changes after receiving a record 2000 written submissions on it. 

The original Bill would have updated the characteristics protected in law from hate crimes with new offences for behaviour “likely” to stir up hatred, whether done intentionally or not.

Mr Yousaf later agreed to change that so that offences were based on intent. 

However he has refused to exclude hateful speech made in people's homes from the Bill, even around the dinner table, in case it creates a loophole for bigots.

The Scottish Tories voted against the Bill, despite the Government’s partial retreats, calling it the “most controversial in devolution history”. 

Tory MSP Liam Kerr will say: “Genuine hate crime must always be punished, but this law goes too far. Our fundamental right to freedom of speech remains under threat.” 

“As it is currently drafted, this bill could criminalise what other people may deem to be offensive or disrespectful 

“There is no way any politician with a belief in our fundamental right to freedom of speech could support this shoddy and dangerous law. 

“As we said before the parliamentary debate, mere tinkering is not enough and the SNP needs to understand that. 

“This Bill is fundamentally flawed and not fit for purpose. Such threats to freedom of speech cannot become law.” 

Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Liam McArthur MSP said: "Hate crime for all protected characteristics is on the rise. 

“And while the culture shift required to reverse this ugly tide will take time, our police, prosecutors and courts need the tools to deal with it when and where it occurs.

“Scotland is not immune from racism or prejudice so we should be looking to ensure our laws are fit for purpose.

"At the same time, we must avoid doing anything that undermines our fundamental freedoms, which ultimately makes the task of combatting hate crime more difficult.

"That is the challenge for the Committee at Stage 2. 

“The Cabinet Secretary has already undertaken major surgery to his bill; but more will be needed if the bill is to gain parliament’s support."

Jamie Gillies, spokesman for the Free to Disagree campaign, added: “Today, the Hate Crime Bill achieved cautious support from MSPs on the basis that further, significant amendments are made to the controversial stirring up hatred offences. 

“In the weeks ahead, MSPs must ensure that the full list of Justice Committee recommendations are adopted, or risk inadvertently undermining freedom of expression.

“Tonight, the Justice Secretary rightly noted that protecting free speech and punishing crimes motivated by hatred are not mutually exclusive. With key amendments a good resolution can be found.”