Scotland's Justice Secretary has spoken out to dispell "frivolous" claims of what could be considered an offense under the SNP's new Hate Crime bill, or that it would dampen free speech. 

Humza Yousaf said that "unreconsructed" uncles telling off-colour jokes or making racist rants had nothing to fear under the new laws, and Tweeted it was ok to use strong language to badmouth him "all day long".  

MSPs last night passed he legislation, which creates a criminal offence of stirring up hatred against protected groups, expanding on a similar offence based on race that has been on the statute books for decades, as well as consolidating a number of different pieces of hate crime legislation.

Mr Yousaf said the law has a "very high" threshhold which would mean only the most serious of offences would be outlawed. 


The Justice Secretary Tweeted this morning. The Herald has censored the last word. Mr Yousaf did not.

Mr Yousaf told BBC Good Morning Scotland: "How it will work is there will be a very high threshhold. You have to have the intention to stir up hatred, and that has to be proven beyond all reasonable doubt.

"But also your behaviour has to be viewed by a reasonable person to be threatening or abusive. Now, if you take those two things together, that's a very high threshhold for an offence."

READ MORE: MSPs vote through controversial hate crime legislation

He added: "If you choose to make a racist joke, as offensive as thay might be, does it meet the threshhold of the offence?

"The offence is your behaviour has to be threatening or abusive and intended to stirr up hatred - so a racist joke is clearly not going to meet that threshold.  

"If your unreconstructed uncle comes in, has one or two sherries too many at Christmas dinner and says something they shouldn't do which creates great offence to his bisexual niece  - that is not going to be prosecuted under the new stirring up of hatred offences. 

"Because, did that unreconstructed uncle have both the intention to stir up hatred against a community and was the behaviour by any resonable person ['s judgement] threatening or abusive?

"These examples that are frivolously thrown about simply won't be prosecuted."


Conservative MSP Adam Tompkins was one of those who spoke out against the Bill

Mr Yousaf defended criticism of the Bill that it would criminalise behaviour of people in private in their own homes. 

He said that the being in such circumstances should not free people from consequences if their actions stirred up hatred which impacted on others. 

The Justice Secretary said: "If I was to invite ten of my mates to my house, close the door so its wholly in private and then I stirred up hatred against say Jewish people and I intended to stir up hatred  - that was my intention because that's the threshold of the offence  - and then those ten people went out and spraypainted and desecrated synagogues and attacked Jewish people.

READ MORE: Humza Yousaf — New Hate Crime Bill extends protection of people

"Of course they would all be prosecuted. But if I was proven to be the instigator of that hate, why should I not be prosecuted simply because I did it in my house, where I would be prosecuted if I did it out in the street?

"The strongest argument I heard from the Law Society in particular is that the criminal law does not stop at your front door."