WITH Dominic Cummings dominating the news, little attention has been given to a short report last week that should alert us to the Scottish Government’s Hate Crime Bill, and the danger it will pose to that precious asset of a liberal society, free speech.

It recorded that MSP Richard Lyle was referred to the SNP for disciplinary action by Nadia El-Nakia of SNP Friends of Palestine, because he said the 750,000 Palestinian refugees of 1948 was a "self-inflicted tragedy". Justifying the call for discipline, she described his opinion as “an insult to every Palestinian worldwide”, and “abhorrent disrespect towards Palestinian people as racist and hate-filled”.

I profoundly disagree with Mr Lyle, as do a number of Israeli historians, including Tom Segev, who in One Palestine Complete does not acquit Israel’s leaders of complicity in the events driving the Pales-tinians into exile. At present, Nadia El-Nakia can only refer Mr Lyle to a political party, but, if the bill were an Act, it would enable her to demand a criminal prosecution, citing her claim that his opinion is “racist”, an “insult” and expresses “hate” – words used to define hate crime in the bill. I hope Mr Lyle votes against it; otherwise he'd better shut up in future.

The Israeli-Palestine issue has a long and complicated history stretching back to the 1920s and 30s, with atrocities and serious mistakes on both sides then, and since. Now enter Prime Minister Netanyahu declaring Israel’s intention to annex part of the West Bank as “a glorious chapter in the history of Zion-ism” . If the bill becomes an Act, and I write that if this is Zionism, then it is anything but glorious; and that its claim to do what it will with Palestinians, is immoral, shall I be accused of and prosecuted for anti-Semitism?

Will I be prosecuted for hate crime upon a religion (protected group) when, as an atheist, I contend that there is no validity in the Israelis’ claim to Palestine (based on their assertion of a promise in an-cient times by the God of the Old Testament), because those who believe it, the Judeo-Christian com-bination, are a minority in the world view of religions, or that they cannot produce proof their God ex-ists? Will I be prosecuted if, as I have done in conversation with Arab Muslim friends, publicly express my scepticism of quotations from the Hadith, on the ground that it was compiled long after the death of the Prophet, and is therefore open to error?

Many reading this will feel I have insulted them, but these issues are unresolved world-political, ethi-cal-moral ones. On them, outside Scotland, there will not be silence. There will be many other issues debated in the world, and “controversy” will be a mild description of the language used. Are we not to join in? Scotland has a tradition of free speech. Our contribution to the Enlightenment could not have happened without it. The bill endangers that tradition. The Government should take it away, and think again.

Jim Sillars, Edinburgh EH9.