SENIOR Tory MSPs’ plans for the Hate Crime Bill were overruled as Douglas Ross insisted the legislation should be scrapped, leaked emails have revealed.

The Scottish Tory leader overruled his justice spokesperson and other figures, who wanted to amend the plans.

Critics of the legislation are concerned it poses a threat to free speech. The Justice Secretary reacted to opposition last month by announcing controversial elements of the bill would be changed.

The Scottish Tories staged a debate demanding the Scottish Government remove the bill altogether – but the leaked communications show this was not a unanimous decision.

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Liam Kerr sent an email days before the debate calling for changes – but not the outright scrapping of the legislation. He told his colleagues that if they were seen to be acting to “delay the implementation of the ‘good bits’ of the bill we will destroy the coalition that is currently looking at us for leadership”.

He warned that going too strongly against the bill would allow another party to propose a successful amendment – making the Scottish Tories look “isolated and unreasonable”.

He went on: "The wording is suitably woolly that we can all basically say what we want – whether that be ‘Humza doesn’t know what he’s doing’; ‘the press will be hamstrung by this’ (cf. BBC today); ‘freedom of speech is a fundamental human right and the SNP don’t wish you to speak freely’ or just ‘this is a car crash. Make it stop’."

But Ross rejected Kerr’s take. He told the justice spokesperson: “The First Minister has already agreed to reflect on the consultation responses, so I am concerned that with your wording we would be asking for something they have accepted, while not pushing for what many people are calling for which is a complete change to the current proposals.”

The Moray MP then circulated his own proposals demanding the Scottish Government “remove” the bill.

MSP Adam Tomkins backed Kerr, writing that he “strongly” preferred his motion to Ross’s.

He told colleagues: “Let’s make the Nats look unreasonable and dogmatic. It’s forensic study that killed named persons, not acting like a bull in a china shop. So too here.

“Politically, we don’t want the Bill withdrawn. We want it live and kicking right up to the election. So why ask for it to be killed off?”

Murdo Fraser said that he agreed with Tomkins, while Central Scotland MSP Graham Simpson backed the leader.

SNP MSP George Adam said the leaked emails show the “serious lack of judgement at the head of the Tory Party”.

He went on: “Its leaders would rather try to score cheap political points than engage constructively to better the lives of the people of Scotland.

“It also shows just how much the Scottish Tory puppets dance to London’s tune when two MSPs are told what to do on devolved matters by a Westminster backbencher.

“Part-time linesman Douglas Ross overruling trained solicitor Liam Kerr and law professor Adam Tomkins on Scots Law would be funny if the issue at hand was not so serious.

“Clearly the Tories are now competing with their Labour pals for the Branch Office of the Year prize.”

A spokesperson for the Scottish Tories said representatives have “robust debates on policy”.

“Ultimately, as evidenced by our debate motion, the party decided that the SNP’s Hate Crime Bill was such a threat to our fundamental right to freedom of speech that it must be withdrawn.”