Police Scotland officers are victims in quarter of hate crime reports, says Humza Yousaf

Humza Yousaf
Humza Yousaf defended the hate crime act -Credit:PA Wire

Humza Yousaf has insisted Scotland's controversial new hate crime laws are necessary as they offer protection to frontline workers like police.

The First Minister was forced to defend the Hate Crime Act again yesterday following reports that 40 officers have been drafted in on overtime to deal with a deluge of complaints.

He told MSPs that Police Scotland members face "outrageous abuse" and revealed almost a quarter of hate crime victims were cops.

Revised legislation aimed at clamping down on hate crime was passed in the Scottish Parliament in 2021 despite fears it would curtail freedom of speech.

It expanded a list of protected characteristics which cannot be used to "stir up hatred" - including race, religion, age and disability.

SNP ministers chose not to include sex on the list and will instead progress a separate bill aimed at curbing misogyny.

Police have since been swamped with almost 10,000 hate crime complaints since the new law took force on April 1.

Citing Calum Steele, the general secretary of the International Council of Police Representative Associations has branded the law a “hate crime farce”.

Yousaf hit back yesterday and said: "When it comes to hate crime, almost a quarter of the hate crime reports victims are police officers.

"Not only that, from the statistics we have to hand, many of them suffer the most outrageous abuse, some of that directed because of prejudice in relation to somebody’s sexual orientation, sometimes in relation to their race."

The Tories opposed the legislation while it was going through Parliament and have spoken out about its impact on “overstretched” police, as well as raising concerns about freedom of speech.

Douglas Ross said: “We said at the very beginning this Act would put free speech at risk."

Yousaf insisted “of the 8,984 hate crime complaints that were made to Police Scotland in the first couple of weeks of April, the vast majority, at least 95%, have been deemed not to be crimes”.

Police Scotland figures show 453 hate crimes were recorded from those reports – with 240 in the first week the legislation was in force and 213 in the second.

The First Minister insisted: “This idea that somehow there would be mass criminalisation of people for simply their opinion, or being insulting, or being offensive, that did not materialise.”

He praised Police Scotland for the “incredible job they have done” despite the “disinformation” he said had been spread about the legislation by the Conservatives.

It comes after the Conservatives failed in a bid on Wednesday to have the new Hate Crime Act repealed.

The Tories used a debate in the Scottish Parliament to attempt to convince MSPs to ditch the law but were blocked by SNP and Green MSPs.

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