Scotland’s Justice Secretary has conceded the Scottish Government could communicated with the public better about information on the nation’s new Hate Crime Act.

Speaking in Holyrood today, Angela Constance said the messaging around the new legislation could have done more to inform the public about what it means.

However, she took the opportunity to say that ‘disinformation’ would have been spread by people opposing the bill regardless of the governments efforts.

She said: “I accept that the Scottish Government could have done more to inform people about this act as well as our wider approach to tackling hate crime and prejudice.

“However, let’s be clear even if that government had produced more info bad faith actors who are intent on spreading disinformation would have done so regardless.”

READ MORE: Hate crimes in Scotland decrease in second week of new laws

It comes as she also issued a response to new data released by Police Scotland today regarding the decline of hate crime reports last week.

There was a total of 1832 hate crimes reported in Scotland between 8 April and 14 April. It was 74.4% decrease on the 7152 hate crimes that were reported on the first week of the new legislation.

Of the total number of reports, 213 were recorded as hate crimes in the second week, down from 240 the previous week.

The Justice Secretary has said that around 90 per cent of the reports recorded in the first week were submitted on the first day of the newly introduced legislation.

Ms Constance added that while it is positive news about the sharp decline in hate crime reports, the number of recorded hate crimes didn’t take as steep a fall, meaning there’s still plenty of work to do.

She said: “These statistics show that of the significant number of online hate crime reports made to Police Scotland since 1 April, almost half came in on the day the new legislation commenced, with the number of daily complaints falling by 90% within the first week.

“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.

“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.”

First Minister Humza Yousaf has joined the Ms Constance in her concession over the Government's communication. 

He said “bad faith actors” had submitted “vexatious” complaints in the early days of the Act’s implementation, but he told journalists at the STUC Congress in Dundee the Government would reflect on its communications around the legislation.

“I think that they (bad actors) were always going to put in some vexatious complaints when the Act first came into force and there’s some reflection in Government that we could have done more in relation to proactive comms, I think that’s a fair challenge back,” he said.

“But even if we had done all the comms in the world, that wouldn’t have stopped for example … members of the far right co-ordinating a campaign to put in vexatious complaints, that was always going to tail off, hence why the police have said there has been a minimal impact on frontline policing.

“Some of the misinformation, I’m sure, has not been deliberate but there has been some that has.”