AS the former Police and Crime Commissioner for North Wales I commend the Scottish Government for introducing the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act to protect those with protected characteristics from threatening, abusive, words or behaviour.

The UK Public Order Act was introduced in 1936 to address the activities of the British Union of Fascists and extended in 1986 to address racially aggravated public order offences. It is well known that intolerance and a lack of compassion towards vulnerable people is on the increase, and it is the role of government to respond to reports of prejudice and bigotry and to legislate if that is deemed necessary, which it clearly was.

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The threshold for committing offences under this act is high and therefore the argument that the act will stifle free speech is null and void. Freedom of speech does not extend to a right to say anything one wants, but also allows fair comment on subjects without being threatening or abusive.

I don’t foresee that this act will create the kind of increase in workloads that opponents of the act perceive any more than the predecessor legislation did for my generation of police officers.

This legislation will improve the quality of life of those with protected characteristics and should be welcomed by all tolerant and progressive Scots, and the divisiveness of Rowling and McCoist should be rejected.

Mr Arfon Jones
Former Police and Crime Commissioner for North Wales (2016-2021)

THERE is a great deal of heat around this issue of hate crime and very little light. Assa Samake-Raman came to Scotland seeking Utopia and blames Scots because such perfection does not exist here (Moral panic-level madness I thought I’d left in France has come to Scotland, Apr 3).

The fact is that in every society there is the good and the bad. This is the nature of humanity and to quote the Kris Kristofferson song Jesus Was a Capricorn, “everybody’s gotta have somebody to look down on”. It is a sad reflection on society that this has always been the case. Will the passing of laws really make a difference? Well I think not.

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After all, it became illegal to discriminate on the basis of race in 1967 but, as Humza Yousaf has reported as pointed out in Wednesday’s National, it clearly has not stopped, just gone somewhat underground. Rather than passing laws it would be better, through education and the media, to encourage people to think less of “me” or “I” and begin to think of “we” and “us”. Instead of thinking “you are making my life hard”, it should be “what can I do to make life better for you?” Or, as the late US President Kennedy said, “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country”.

Our society has become very selfish: “it is my right!” or “why should I do that for you?” or “what’s in it for me?” This can never lead to a peaceful society. I am now almost 81 years of age. I will not pretend everything in the past was good, because it certainly was not. Prejudice was rife. Having said that, there was a greater sense of community when I was young and this made it possible for people to forget their prejudices when faced with goodness and kindness.

Let us seek a better society by thinking about one another and less about ourselves.

Angus Shaw
via email

IT was so reassuring to read SNP MP Steve Bonnar’s critical comments about the affable Ally McCoist after his latest ill-conceived remarks regarding personally violating the Hate Crime Act 2024 at a sports event, namely the upcoming Rangers v Celtic Scot match at Ibrox.

I endorse Mr Bonnar’s suggestion to focus on the sport of football on the pitch rather than the sport itself being used as a “platform of hate” by a group of anarchists posing as footie fans – a historical issue that McCoist failed to emphasise, in his Talksport interview, is totally wrong and contrary to the whole ethos of why we play football in this country and across the globe.

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Indeed, sectarianism, alongside racism, is rightly outlawed under the rules of the game. It’s a pity that the football authorities and enforcement agencies in Scotland keep “burying their heads in the sand” when it comes to at least trying to eradicate sectarianism in this country while other footie bodies like UEFA have previously taken punitive actions against Rangers FC when such crass sectarian offence has been highlighted to them.

As for Ally McCoist, I doubt he comes anywhere near to being a bigot attached to this form of needless sectarian hatred. However, I’d suggest there is a huge element of ignorance attached to his comments and have no doubt he hasn’t read a single line of what is written in the said Hate Crime Act 2024. I’d also remind Ally of the sheer bliss expressed by thousands of Scot footie fans when RFC was demoted to the lowest tier of SPFL football well over ten years ago – what a non-toxic difference during that period! And as for JK Rowling running the country, Ally? A hugely wealthy sanctimonious, pro-Union English woman – no thanks!!!!!!

Bernie Japs

IT would appear to work. A writer of fantasy children’s novels and a former celebrity footballer and pundit can get headlines on their unqualified opinions about legislation passed by the vast majority of our representatives.

The opportunity is seized upon by a Prime Minister and a disgruntled First Minister to score political points in an election year. The Labour Party, despite having voted for the legislation, are sudden silent (presumably awaiting instructions from head office).

Anyone who cannot see through this sham is already heavily biased or easily fooled. The BBC and most of the media are seriously misrepresenting the facts and colouring our judgement. It appears to work.

Colin Harvey