The Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act, which is due to come into force on the first of next month, has come in for heavy criticism in recent days, and has even provoked dissent from within the SNP’s own ranks.

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Today, one of our readers expresses his concerns about the Act’s implications for the fields of the arts and entertainment.

The Herald:

Colin Montgomery of Edinburgh writes:

"Words are important. They carry power. And, as part of discourse - be that intellectual, demotic, theatrical or comedic - they ought to be carefully chosen of course. In an ideal world, this would imply only serenely safe, comfortable and innocuous exchanges is to be allowed in Scotland's public realm; whether on a street corner, at a football stadium, at an auditorium, gallery or music venue.

"But we don't live in that ideal world. And wishing to bring one about through heavy-handed legislation in the form of the new Hate Crime Act is a fool's errand. We live in a world with rough edges, hard sentiments and challenging perspectives; creating experiences used by Scottish talent to create iconic works of literature, comedy, music and art that have helped our nation punch above its weight on the global stage. That's not to endorse hate for art's sake; it's to draw an important distinction that reported policing guidelines for the hate crime legislation would make nigh on impossible.

"Said guidelines could have shut down, on the whim of a perceived aggression or slight, much famous Scottish talent.

"Billy Connolly, Alex Harvey, Alex Trocchi, Irvine Welsh, James Kelman, the works of 7:84, Gregory Burke's Black Watch, to name just a few, for the list could go on and on. Arguably, none of them would be deemed "safe" for public consumption under the terms of this Act. And Scotland would be a poorer place for it. But it seems that, to some, it's a price worth paying in pursuit of a utopian vision that is long on censoriousness and short on realism."

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