Earlier this year, in the midst of a pandemic, the Scottish government had the audacity to sneak in draconian restrictions on freedom of expression — with up to seven years’ imprisonment for the vaguely defined offense of “stirring up hatred” — in a bill purporting to repeal a dormant blasphemy law. The new law goes so far as to criminalize “displaying, publishing, or distributing” material that a member of a protected identity group finds to be “abusive, threatening, or insulting.” This would apply to social-media users and bloggers, as well as to playwrights and directors.
But as awareness of the bill’s implications grew, so too did resistance. Politics makes for strange bedfellows. During the public consultation on the bill (which may still be amended before it passes), even the Scottish Secular Society and the Catholic Church were united in opposition.