No laughing matter! Sturgeon’s bizarre new law ‘could criminalise comedy jokes’

We will use your email address only for sending you newsletters. Please see our Privacy Notice for details of your data protection rights.

The Free to Disagree campaign claims comics at events such as the Edinburgh’s Fringe festival could find themselves in hot water. The Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill was introduced by Scottish Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf.

Under the legislation, the law on hate crime is set to be extended to increase protection for religion, sexual orientation and transgender identity.

If the legislation becomes law, it will mean words or behaviour considered to be “abusive” and “likely” to stir up hatred would constitute an offence.

However, the controversial legislation has already faced criticism from the Law Society of Scotland, comedians including Rowan Atkinson, Scottish Writers PEN group and the Catholic Church in Scotland.

Simon Calvert, a spokesman for the Free to Disagree campaign, said: “If a comedian at the Edinburgh Fringe made controversial comments about age, disability, religion or transgenderism and were reported by a disgruntled audience member, they could find themselves under investigation by the police.

 

“Even if their comments didn’t meet the threshold for an offence, officers would still be required to investigate the matter, using up valuable police resources.

“The proposed legislation could chill free speech and artistic expression in Scotland.

“What comedian in their right mind would want to perform at the Fringe if their jokes could land them in hot water? It’s no laughing matter.”

Mr Calvert claimed the public would have “huge implications for comedy in Scotland.”

He added: “The idea that they’d result in police investigation or prosecution is outrageous.

“If this kind of thing gets outlawed then lots of other perfectly legitimate speech would also fall foul of the law. We can’t allow that to happen.

“Criticism of the government’s plans continues to grow.”

He concluded: “Even at this early stage in proceedings, there’s a huge backlash involving lawyers, police officers, the church, the LGBT community and feminists – the most unlikely of allies.”

DON’T MISS:  
Boris stands firm as policy paper exposes plan for creation of Army [REVEAL]  
Tories mock SNP by creating law named after disgraced MSP [INSIGHT] 
Health Secretary to STAND DOWN after Scottish care home chaos [LATEST]

James Kelly MSP, Scottish Labour justice spokesperson, said: “Scottish Labour is committed to tackling hate crime in Scotland but Humza Yousaf’s proposed legislation is fundamentally flawed and threatens to punish artists and performers.

“The “stirring-up hatred” offence, in particular, is deeply worrying as it risks turning artistic freedom of expression into a criminal offence.

“Unless this legislation is very seriously reformed, Scottish Labour simply cannot support it.”

At the same time, Kevin Bridges, Frankie Boyle and Fred MacAulay were among a group of performers calling on the Scottish Government to provide emergency funding to help Scotland’s comedy scene survive the COVID-19 pandemic.


Signatories of a letter, who also include Janey Godley, Jo Caulfield and Des McLean, warned the sector was “at breaking point” as they urged ministers and bosses at the arts agency Creative Scotland to commit cash to help keep venues afloat.

The letter, sent by the Association of Scottish Comedic Arts, said help has been provided to the grassroots music industry after lockdown forced the closure of venues across the country.

But it added that despite a plea to ministers in July for financial support for the comedy sector, no cash has been announced.

In response, a Scottish government spokesperson, said: “While the bill does create new offences of stirring up hatred to cover other characteristics such as religion and sexual orientation, ‘insulting’ is not included as part of the conduct that may constitute a criminal offence.”

Source: Read Full Article