REPORTS on social media have stirred up concerns that the new Hate Crime Bill, set to come into effect in Scotland next month, will “target” artists.

The bill, passed in 2021, expands existing legislation to cover comments made in private settings without the intention to offend.

We take a look at what the new law sets out to do, and whether these claims are true.

What is the Hate Crime Bill?

The Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act makes it an offence to stir up hatred against protected characteristics including age, disability, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity.

It was passed in 2021 and comes into effect on April 1.

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The legislation is essentially split into two parts; the first part codifies how crimes can be aggravated by prejudice, whilst the second part consolidates new offences of “stirring up hatred” against minority groups.

Why is there controversy over the new law?

Media reports indicated that stirring up hatred under the new law could be communicated “through public performance of a play”, according to training modules they had seen.

The module also stated the material could be shared through platforms such as “podcasts and social media” and spread through “email” and “playing a video”.

However, Police Scotland said the reports were based on training material from Scottish Government explanatory notes which accompany the legislation.

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The statement said a “range of scenarios” were included, but stressed officers had not been told to target those particular situations or locations.

Will the Hate Crime Bill ‘target artists’?

Following media reports, Police Scotland clarified that groups such as actors or comedians will not be targeted under the new legislation.

A spokesperson for Police Scotland said: “Police Scotland is not instructing officers to target actors, comedians or any other people or groups.

“Police Scotland is a rights-based organisation and officers balance the protections people have under human rights legislation against other laws every day.

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“Our training for the new Act therefore reminds officers of their human rights obligations and it reflects all aspects of the new legislation, including the protection it includes around freedom of expression.”

The new legislation does not make anything which is currently legal illegal. It does not say that offences are aggravated by hatred because the victim feels that way.

For an aggravation to be charged, Scottish prosecutors will have to demonstrate that “at the time of committing the offence, or immediately before or after doing so, the offender demonstrates malice and ill-will towards the victim” based on their age, disability, race, sexual orientation or transgender identity.