In an SNP censorship crackdown, criticising Gaelic would be a ‘hate crime’

by Colin Campbell

NEW hate crimes legislation planned in Scotland is taking a sinister course. The scope of what would be placed in the “hate” category and become a crime under an SNP government is being expanded all the time.

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf wants to crack down even harder on the right to free speech.

The latest group to seek inclusion are Gaelic activists.

Pressure group Misneachd has submitted a response to the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill calling for the term “minority language” to be adopted to protect all linguistic minorities from language-based hate. It says the Scottish and UK Governments should consult on having linguistic minorities included alongside race, religion, disability, sexual orientation and transgender identity for legal protection.

A spokesman said: “It would send out a clear statement against widespread ignorance about language issues and multilingualism in our diverse society, and would offer protection in cases where the accused has, for example, objected aggressively to the use of the language but without referring to the race or ethnicity of the speakers.”

These activists would no doubt consider “widespread ignorance” of Gaelic to be anything said or written about it that they disagreed with, and “objecting aggressively” to it would fall into the same “hate crime” category.

That is a chilling prospect.

No-one in their right mind has any form of insane hatred for the Gaelic language or those who speak it or are trying to learn it. And many if not most people are broadly sympathetic towards efforts to keep it alive.

But where legitimate concerns are raised is when time in the police, fire and health services, for example, is spent on promoting the language within these services rather than on directing all efforts towards policing, fire safety, and health.

When public signs everywhere have to be altered at huge cost to place Gaelic alongside, or usually above, English.

And when public bodies have to present warehouse filling stacks of paperwork in Gaelic as well as English, at vast expense.

In reality, the signs have all been changed, much of the paperwork has been produced and the Gaelic agenda runs right through most public services.

So there’s not a lot left to criticise.

But including Gaelic in hate crimes legislation would all too worryingly ensure that you’d have to be careful what you said if there were efforts to expand the language even further.

Like making it compulsory in schools.

Does that sound fanciful? Under an SNP government nothing of that extremist nature should sound fanciful.

The “Hate Crimes” legislation, which is still going through the legislative process, would pose blanket restrictions on freedom of expression across the board. Dare to insist that a man is a man and a woman is a woman without equivocation and you could end up in handcuffs. If a man decided, literally after waking up one morning that he would henceforth self-idenfity as a woman, and should be granted access to female changing rooms, the hate crimes hammer could come crashing down on staff at Inverness Leisure, for example, who disagreed.

And now the Gaelic activists want to get in on the act. A very short time ago these “hate crime” arguments would have been dismissed as deluded and nonsensical. But not anymore.

Critics say if this goes ahead it’ll reduce Scotland to a North Korean model of free speech limitations. That doesn’t sound too much of an exaggeration.

Proponents of these measures would see “hate crimes ” all around where most of the rest of us would see only alternative viewpoints expressed in a robust way.

In fact in a genuinely free society people should have the right to express views on Gaelic and transgender issues and other issues, short of an incitement to violence or anything liable to result in an identifiable breach of the peace. But we’ve already moved a long way from that and now Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf wants to “crack down” even further.

We used to have the right to free speech. And I’ve no doubt that this incredibly authoritarian SNP Government in their ineffably pious and “we always know best” would be all too keen to remove that from us completely.

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