NOT all police officers have completed the online training course in Scotland’s new hate crime law, one of the force’s deputy chief constables has said.

The Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act took effect on Monday, with opponents raising concerns about its potential impact on free speech.

The legislation consolidated existing hate crime legislation and created a new offence of stirring up hatred against protected characteristics, similar to an offence for race which has been on the statute book since 1986.

Concerns have also been raised by the Scottish Police Federation (SPF) about the level of training on offer to frontline staff, with the body representing rank-and-file officers claiming just two hours of preparation has been made available.

SPF general secretary David Kennedy told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Our biggest complaint right from the beginning of this is there’s been no extra money given to the police service to provide the extra training.

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“It’s another concern for us that it’s more work on police officers and less training. Two hours of online training is all we’ve had.”

Kennedy added that he had not done the training himself yet.

He said the new law risks reducing trust in the police.

In a letter to Holyrood’s Criminal Justice Committee published on Thursday, Police Scotland deputy chief constable Alan Speirs said 10,000 officers have undertaken an online training course through the platform Moodle – but as of December 31 there were 16,363 full time equivalent officers.

Speirs said in the letter that the online training course is the “primary” source of training.

He wrote: “I am keen to reassure the committee and outline Police Scotland’s plans on implementation, the suite of guidance and training materials devised and available to officers and staff, all of which was developed in consultation with stakeholders including our diverse staff associations as well as Scottish Government.”

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He said there were “bespoke training packages, workshops and associated guidance materials all to enable and equip our officers and staff”.

He added: “To explain this further, bespoke training has been developed and delivered within our C3 environment of service centre, area control room and resolution teams, further supported by bespoke briefings, revised cue cards with a further 28 or more workshops delivered across Police Scotland.

“At the time of writing, over 10,000 officers have undergone a Moodle training package to aid their understanding and application.”

Speirs told the committee a “great deal of care, thought and preparation has gone into preparing Police Scotland and our officers for the implementation of the Act commencing in the coming days”.

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He added: “Consequently, I am confident that our officers and staff have available to them the necessary training and support to feel confident in enforcing the changes to the law implemented by the Act.”

His letter said the police would take a “very much ‘business as usual'” approach to the policing of hate crime, owing to the fact the definition of a hate crime will not change.

He added: “Similarly, the offence of ‘stirring up hatred’ is not a new crime, or an unfamiliar concept for officers, the offence of stirring up of racial hatred has been a criminal offence for many years, under the provisions of the Public Order Act 1986.

“The offences created under the new Act simply extend that offence to other listed characteristics.”