The troubled Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill was finally approved by the Scottish Parliament last night after requiring an additional allocation of time for debate.
MSPs passed the bill by 82 votes to 32, with four abstentions, after a debate delayed by a day due to the amount of time needed to debate amendments at stage 3 on Wednesday.
Three Labour MSPs joined the Conservatives in voting against the bill, and two SNP members were among the four members who abstained, after an amendment that would have included women as a protected group was defeated. The Scottish Government has set up a working group under Baroness Helena Kennedy QC to look at whether misogynistic abuse should be a separate crime.
The Conservatives further argued that the bill failed to strike the right balance between freedom of expression and protection from hate, including by not exempting private conversations within the home.
Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf claimed that "solely stating any belief", even in a "robust manner", would not breach the criminal threshold – instancing people who "believe sex is immutable, or they believe an adult man cannot become a female or they campaign for the rights of Palestinians... or proselytise that same-sex relationships are sinful".
After the vote he said: "The bill’s passage has shown Holyrood at its very best – a collaborative, diverse and determined Parliament which we should all be proud of. Robust scrutiny has ensured we have met the right balance between protecting groups targeted by hate crime and respecting people’s rights to free speech."