HAD Scotland’s new Hate Crime legislation been operational the Royal Family might have had a problem this week. Following claims by Meghan Markle that the colour of her child had been an issue in the Windsor household, Police Scotland might have felt bound to pay the royal caravan a visit the next time they were up here killing our wild beasties.

Had these conversations been motivated by racial hatred? Where had they taken place? Who had been present? There wouldn’t have been any questions, of course, about Catholics having to renounce their faith before being admitted into the family because, well … that one’s a bit complicated and stitched into the fabric of our constitution.

The Hate Crime Bill duly made it on to Scotland’s statute book on Thursday and, on the face of it, seems less draconian than it otherwise might have been. Yet, until they find a nailed-down definition of what ‘stirring up hatred’ looks like it seems reasonable to predict that the Scottish judiciary is soon to face a torrid time of it.

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The overwhelming majority of Scots recognise when sentiments are being expressed for the specific purpose of threatening religious minorities and the LGBTQ community. The problem here though is that, judging by social media, the SNP has been hollowed out by a vociferous group of illiberal nasties who seem determined to view reasonably-expressed opinions – especially around gender – as evidence of hate speech.

A significant number of them also seem to derive pleasure from threatening women (never men), both online and in person. Joan McAlpine, the most prominent SNP critic of the Hate Crime proposals has had a target crudely drawn on her Twitter profile amidst explicit threats of sexual violence towards her. Other female members have left the party because their own complaints about similar treatment have been ignored by the leadership.

The Hate Crime legislation follows a pattern of crude authoritarianism by which the Government can keep its eye on the masses. The SNP harbours a curious contempt for a large part of the population. In the last few years we’ve had the absurd Named Persons scheme; minimum alcohol pricing and the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act.

HeraldScotland: Humza Yousaf piloted Hate Crime BillHumza Yousaf piloted Hate Crime Bill

This party ceaselessly purports “to stand up for Scotland”, but they have a funny way of showing it. They like to portray Scotland as a delinquent nation, over-run by bigoted, drunken, feckless savages who require a blinding and ever-changing suite of laws to hold them in check.

Thus, children from families who are deemed to be, you know, a bit edgy, were thought to require a state guardian. The police were urged to stage dawn raids at the homes of teenage renegades for singing dodgy songs at football matches. Now, they can’t even be trusted to say there are only two sexes in a socially responsible manner.

Yet there is something more sinister still lurking in the Hate Crime legislation despite the added free speech protections. It’s epitomised by a Through the Looking Glass outcome: that men who dress as women are to be afforded more protection than actual women.

Thus, women who indicate resistance to the prospect of men being allowed to pose as them simply by self-declaration are afforded no protection under the law and will be accused by the new witch-finders of having fallen foul of it. This is what the absence of clarity in “stirring up” means and women, who have been the most outspoken about threats to their safe spaces, could be accused of ‘hate crime’.

The recent fall in support for independence now threatens to jeopardise a Yes majority at Holyrood, without which it will be virtually impossible to achieve independence. When the full implications of this piece of legislation percolate through to the minds of the electorate the backlash could intensify. Why would this party flirt with such a catastrophe to suit an entirely bogus agenda unless that was its desired outcome?

The SNP has become a place where unprincipled and mediocre glove-puppets are routinely promoted ahead of talent and experience. At Westminster it’s led by a man who stands accused of covering-up malfeasance while working against those SNP MPs who incur the displeasure of the leadership.

They’ve done nothing of any note to offset the Tories’ one-sided austerity agenda beyond a few populist stocking-fillers. Two of their biggest flagship numbers – the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act and Named Persons – were laughed out of existence. The smoking ban was Labour’s as was the Period Poverty initiative.

I’ve previously been disobliging of several of Nicola Sturgeon’s Labour predecessors but none would have scoured the floor of the swamp as she did a few weeks ago when she whistled up the bullies on the party’s scarecrow wing before sacking Joanna Cherry from the front bench of her Westminster team.  
Yesterday, at Edinburgh sheriff court a man pled guilty to sending Ms Cherry messages that were grossly offensive, menacing and included threats of sexual violence. The messages were sent days after the First Minister’s intervention. 
Ms Cherry says that allegations of transphobia made against her from within her own party “put a target on her back”.  

This week Ms Cherry was the only Scot named on a list of the 100 most inspirational women at Westminster. In the SNP, though, she is considered a pariah and has endured a two-year campaign of intimidation and bullying. This is a party where strong, talented women of independent minds are considered a threat rather than an asset. Its failure to make sex a protected characteristic in their Hate Crime Bill is the final proof – if any were still required – that the SNP does not take women’s safety and wellbeing seriously.

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What may be required is for several experienced and high-profile female politicians to break from this party in the manner of the Gang of Four who broke from Labour in 1981 to form the Social Democrats.

They would pursue a broadly left-wing, interventionist agenda specifically designed to plug a huge gap in the SNP’s record: evening up the life chances of people in our poorest communities.

Crucially, it would also plug that gap in the Hate Crime legislation that still leaves women at risk from violence and intimidation.

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