Police Scotland received 7,152 complaints under Scotland’s new hate crime law in the first week of operation, the force has announced.

However, the vast majority resulted in no action being taken - with only 240 hate crimes recorded.

Most of the reports were made anonymously. Police Scotland said the impact on services was "minimal". 

As well as the more than 7,000 online reports, police also dealt with 430 incidents in the first week where a hate crime tag was added, while there were 34 calls to either 101 or 999 relating to a hate crime and 141 emails sent to Police Scotland for the same purpose.

But of these, just 3.3 per cent of all reports were recorded as hate crimes  – while 30 were logged as non-crime hate incidents, meaning they did not meet the threshold for a criminal offence.

Slides produced by Police Scotland also showed two complaints made under the new Act stemming from the Old Firm match on Sunday.

The Act consolidated previous hate crime legislation and created a new offence of stirring up hatred against certain protected characteristics – which had been on the statute book for race since 1986.

READ MORE: Police Scotland will not log 'hate incident' against Rowling or FM

Throughout its passage in 2020 and 2021, the legislation stoked fears over its impact on free speech and garnered many prominent critics, including author JK Rowling who feared it could criminalise those who criticise the Scottish Government’s policy on gender recognition.

Ms Rowling made a number of posts on the first day the law was in force misgendering a number of trans people, effectively challenging Police Scotland to charge her.

The Herald: JK RowlingJK Rowling (Image: PA)

But Police Scotland did not take any action and said that Ms Rowling’s posts were “not assessed to be criminal”.

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “This data highlights the substantial increase in the number of online hate reports being received since 1 April.

“This significant demand continues to be managed within our contact centres and so far the impact on frontline policing, our ability to answer calls and respond to those who need our help in communities across Scotland has been minimal.

“All complaints received are reviewed by officers, supported by dedicated hate crime advisers, and dealt with appropriately, whether that is being progressed for further assessment, or closed as they do not meet the criteria under the legislation”.

READ MORE: What are Scotland's new Hate Crime Laws?

Meanwhile, Scottish Green MSP Ross Greer has said the Scottish Government’s Hate Crime Act has not made it illegal to “be an asshole”.

Speaking to the BBC Podlitical podcast, Mr Greer – a senior member of the Scottish Greens – said it had not been made illegal to be unpleasant or offensive.

“It’s not illegal to be an asshole now,” he said.

“It was not illegal to be an asshole before and for the last week it has still not been illegal to be an asshole.”

But he added: “That doesn’t mean that you should be.”

The Herald: Ross GreerRoss Greer (Image: PA)

Mr Greer stressed that he was not specifically referring to the Harry Potter author, but was making a generalisation.

He continued: “Just because it is still legal to be offensive doesn’t mean you should go out of your way to be offensive.

“There are plenty of things that it’s not illegal to do, but that in a decent society we don’t generally encourage people to do.

“We should all be trying to be as pleasant and decent to each other as possible, whether the law allow for it or not.

“I think as a society we should hold ourselves to a higher standard than the criminal law.

“If the highest standard we can set for ourselves and each other is the criminal law – that’s an abysmally low standard.”

The Herald: Justice Secretary Angela ConstanceJustice Secretary Angela Constance (Image: PA)

Justice Secretary Angela Constance said: “These comparison statistics show how vital tackling hate crime is and how it is not a new issue for Scotland’s police and justice system.

“Police Scotland has been clear that demand continues to be managed within its contact centres and the impact on frontline policing has been minimal.

"I want to thank police staff and officers for their dedication and professionalism in their work as this law came into force and for all they do, day in and day out, to keep our communities safe."

She added: “On a visit to Age Scotland’s Scottish Ethnic Minority Older People Forum, I heard first-hand from those with direct experience of hatred and prejudice about the traumatic effect this can have on their lives.

"The Hate Crime Act does not prevent people expressing controversial, challenging or offensive views – nor does it seek to stifle criticism or rigorous debate in any way, while the right to freedom of expression is built into the Act.

"It does however help to tackle the harm caused by hatred and prejudice, and provide greater protections for people in society and communities who face hatred just because of who they are – and we should all want that.”