I WAS disappointed to read the article by Jamie Gillies of the ‘Free to Disagree’ campaign in the Herald (“Flawed Hate Crime Bill poses a serious risk to free speech”, July 24).

He hugely overstates the changes being made to the existing law by the new Hate Crime Bill which is just starting its way through Parliament.

In fact, it is mainly a consolidation bill and is bringing existing law together in one

place.

Most of the wording he seems to be unhappy about, such as “insulting” and “stirring up”, have been in the law since 1986 without any great problem.

The Bill really only tweaks existing law.

Mr Gillies and others who are questioning the Bill seem to focus on very vague potential threats to free speech somewhere in the future.

But what about expressions of hatred in our society right now?

The main hatred I see expressed in Glasgow and the West of Scotland is around sectarianism, whether that be at football matches, Orange marches, or elsewhere.

Surely most people would accept that some of the singing at football and the very existence of so many marches on a common theme really are stirring up hatred right now (apart from during the pandemic!), particularly against our Irish and Catholic communities.

Surely it is better to ask if the Bill will help address current expressions of hatred in society rather than conjecturing that there might be some unspecified limitations to freedom of speech in the distant future?

And that is where I do have a question about the Bill.

Does it go far enough in helping us clamp down on expressions of hatred at football and marches? I fear it does not.

Anyway, the Bill is only starting its progress and I am sure the Justice Committee and MSPs in general will give it a thorough examination.

I also expect the Government will be open to amendments

as the Bill goes forward and the Scottish legislative system gives ample opportunity for improvements to be proposed, debated, and voted on.

But my key appeal to all those interested in this Bill would be please to ask whether the Bill can help deal with present actual expressions of hatred rather

than focussing too much on imagining problems that may never appear.

John Mason, MSP for Glasgow Shettleston.

Free speech fears

THE article by Mr Gillies reminds us what an awful minefield we have stumbled into in terms of the limits of free speech.

I have been dismayed when certain controversial academics and authors have been howled down by the mob just because they express views that run counter to the liberal

orthodoxy.

But my main concern is that our police – already undermanned and over-worked – are swamped by substantial numbers of peevish complaints from people whose feelings have been hurt by some public comment.

The police could do without this.

T Marshall,

Glasgow.