AFTER your recent illuminating piece by Prof Adam Tomkins ("Could this Hate Crime Act work?", The Herald, March 21), I spent some time studying the terms of the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act 2021. It bears little resemblance to the tenor of the “debate” currently conducted online - whether or not by famous authors - nor indeed to that evident in the media. One may be entitled to one’s opinions, as the saying goes, but informed opinions are always more welcome, I would suggest.

To fall foul of this Act one must not only behave or communicate in ways threatening or abusive to a protected characteristic but also, necessarily, do so in such a way as to intend to, or be reasonably judged to, stir up hatred towards such. Specifically protected is the right to offend, shock, or disturb, as more obviously is true of discussion and criticism. Indeed, in the case of religion, one remains free also to express antipathy, dislike, ridicule or insult toward such without fear of redress.

The assumption that this was an SNP Government imposition also ignores the fact that it was an act of the Scottish Parliament supported by a mix of SNP, Green, Liberal Democrat and Labour MSPs, including the party leader Anas Sarwar.

Before things get worse, there is an urgent need for the Scottish Government to communicate fully the implications of this Act, rather than leave it to keyboard warriors, and others - who should, and do, know better - to peddle wild misrepresentation. Silence by those who voted it through is also questionable at a time when better would be expected.

There are some tricky, nuanced areas of the Act, it is true: harassment in one clause is defined as causing “alarm and distress” but how that differs from acceptable offence, shock, or disturbance is certainly not easily decided. But then, this field is fraught with such borderline aspects of democratic life.

I can understand fierce resistance from those in favour of hate crime, but for others who claim “freedom of speech” is threatened, they ought to be better informed, to reassure themselves about the nature of their fellow travellers, and, I would advise, to tone things down.

Donald Gillies, Professor Emeritus, University of the West of Scotland, Ayr.

• WHY do our legislators forever feel the need to reinvent the wheel? The Hate Crime and Public Order Act is the latest example. There is no need for it.

For centuries the good old offence of Breach of the Peace more than adequately struck at the type of conduct the new legislation seeks to punish and discourage. Conduct likely to cause fear or alarm to the lieges. What could be simpler but completely apt? Certainly not an Act with 22 sections and two schedules.

It does provide scope for many and varied opportunities to argue the interpretation of a statute not available before.

Branislav Sudjic, Pitlochry.

Why I'm proud to be Scottish

IT would appear that Paul McPhail (Letters, April 2) is either blissfully unaware of the devastating outcomes of UK Government actions or is disingenuous in his criticisms of the Scottish Government, which like all governments has made mistakes.

Mr McPhail may be proud to be “British” and not “Scottish”, but personally I am not proud of a government that continues to supply weapons to a regime embarked on genocidal slaughter. I’m not proud of a government which has increased the gap between rich and poor to the highest disparity in Europe. I’m not proud of a government that denies basic human rights to refugees fleeing conflict and is intent on sending such desperate people to an “unsafe country”.

I’m not proud of a government that rewards rich donors with peerages and multi-million-pound contracts and refuses to return a donation from a party donor making clearly racist remarks. I’m not proud of a government that rewarded party donors with PPE contracts worth billions of pounds for items that proved unusable to a struggling NHS. I’m not proud of a government that has wasted tens of billions of pounds on defence contracts which include massively over-budget aircraft carriers still not fit for active service and which still don’t have the planes they were designed to carry. I’m not proud of a government that will have wasted an estimated £100 billion on a high-speed rail line from London to the “North” which will now not even reach Manchester.

I’m not proud of a government that presides over an explosion of food banks and people living on our streets while introducing a bill that will “criminalise homelessness”.

I am, however, very proud to be “Scottish”, and proud of a government that acts according to the principles of egalitarianism and fairness in spite of the considerable political and media backing of those who seek to misrepresent or undermine its sincere efforts, including the introduction of the Hate Crime Bill, to build a better society for all.

Stan Grodynski, Longniddry.

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We need a new indy party

AS a lifelong supporter of independence I am regularly asked why I am not a member of either the SNP or the Greens. The answer is very simple. Just look at the country they are attempting to mould and you rapidly realise that they are the most illiberal politicians with the possible exception of North Korea.

These are parties which are led by individuals who have zero experience of business and that is made very plain by the whiff of anti-business which pervades most of their legislation. Former lawyers and social workers obviously have a totally different perspective to someone who knows what it feels like waking each morning with the knowledge that they have to earn money as they don't have a large guaranteed salary.

However, it does not stop there as one realises that whole sections of the population are deemed expendable in the furtherance of their social engineering goals. The Gender Reform Act, the Hate Crime Act, the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act, the Named Person scheme, the list goes on and on and all seem to be motivated by a desire to control not only what we do but also what we say or even think. How inclusive is a country if you exclude everyone who thinks differently from you? Just think how many are excluded in the "Tory-free" diatribe.

So what are my options? Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrats will continue to dance to the tune of London no matter how much they deny it. The SNP and Greens show no sign of turning away from their control freakery. Perhaps we should form a new party. Anarchists of the world unite, or maybe not.

David Stubley, Prestwick.

The Herald: Should the Tories make Penny Mordaunt their leader?Should the Tories make Penny Mordaunt their leader? (Image: PA)

Make Penny Mordaunt PM

“WE have a plan.” “We are sticking to our plan.” “The plan is working.”

How often have we heard these quotes from Rishi Sunak and his fellow Government ministers, when attempting to justify the dire state of our country? They are sound bites which would resonate with voters if there were any evidence to back up these claims. Unfortunately, this is just not the case, as evidenced by the all-encompassing cost of living crisis continuing to bite, NHS waiting lists continuing to rise, illegal Channel crossings up on last year, child poverty reaching crisis proportions, public services on their knees, local councils crying out for help just to survive, crumbling RAAC-infested schools and a list that does not end there.

So, the Tory Party can just sail blindly on and sleepwalk into oblivion, or it can change course in an attempt to avoid the gigantic iceberg which looms large in the form of the next General Election. A start would be to ditch Partygate-tainted Rishi Sunak, arguably the least popular Prime Minister after Liz Truss, and appoint a new leader capable of uniting a fragmented party, exposing the myth that Labour can do much better in power and someone who has the vision to introduce the major changes in Government policy which would resonate with voters.

It is in my opinion that Penny Mordant, the current leader of the House of Commons, would be the best candidate for the role, even if it means a fourth Prime Minister since 2019. A radical change such as this so close to the next election may be declared as folly by some and be too late to prevent a catastrophe at the polls for the Conservative Party, however it may mitigate the loss of office by ensuring that, sooner rather than later, they may be able to make a comeback.

Christopher H Jones, Giffnock.