Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill

(Last Updated: 1 April 2021)

The Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill is one of the most concerning pieces of legislation proposed by the Scottish Government. It has the potential to criminalise individual women and feminist groups that speak out against the erosion of women’s rights due to gender extremism.

The Free to Disagree campaign gives a brief explanation of why the Bill is problematic.

Update: The Bill passed on 11 March by a margin of 82 votes to 32. Despite some great speeches on the Wednesday and Thursday by a number of MSPs, various amendments to include ‘sex’ in the Bill and to improve the protections around free speech were rejected.

Background information

CIVITAS – Policing Hate: Have we abandoned freedom and equality?
Joanna Williams – December 2020
Download Policing Hate PDF
By exploring the history, current context and impact of hate crime legislation and drawing upon interviews with academics and campaigners, the report explores the current challenges to equality before the law and free expression.
The author concludes that there should be no extension to existing hate speech legislation. The report finds that no special ‘characteristics’ should receive legal protection in a way that violates the principle of equality under the law. The author proposes that groups with a vested interest in presenting their members as victims of hate crime should not influence hate crime legislation. A future inquiry should be held to review all elements of the law that conflict with freedom of speech.

History of Women and Hate Crime Law
For Women Scotland – 24/11/2020

The Scottish Parliament’s bill process and the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill
An explanation of how legislation is brought forward, and how various amendments and rejections can take place.

Defining transgender identity in the Hate Crime and Public Order Bill and beyond

Should ‘Variations in Sex Characteristics’ be included in the Hate Crime and Public Order Bill?

The limits of precedent and the special case of racial hatred


Councillor Lachlan Bruce: Hate Crime Bill makes Scotland a less free country
East Lothian Courier – 21/03/2021

Analysis: What’s next for the hated Hate Crime Bill?
Free to Disagree – 16/12/2020
* The government has pledged amendments to strengthen free speech protections in the bill, including on the crucial point of debate around women’s rights and transgender identity. Free speech clauses must be robust, or legitimate debate on various issues could be chilled.
* The government has also promised to further-define the term ‘abusive’ in the stirring up hatred offences.
* One issue raised in last night’s debate that could be a sticking point is the idea of a ‘dwelling defence’, protecting words spoken in the privacy of the home. This protection is written into parallel hate crime laws in England and Wales. The Justice Committee notes that the Hate Crime and 
Public Order Bill should primarily be concerned with behaviour in public. But the government seems to disagree with this. Achieving consensus on the issue will be a challenge.

The Scottish Government has made the Hate Crime Bill controversial
Jenni Davidson (Holyrood Magazine) – 01/12/2020

‘Hate Crime Bill could stop women speaking out on trans issues’
Free to Disagree – 17/11/2020
Policy analysis collective Murray Blackburn Mackenzie (MBM) raised particular concerns over the inclusion of a ‘stirring up hatred’ offence on transgender identity.

Research & analysis

MBM Briefing for Stage 1 debate: Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill
Excellent report that focuses on two areas: the exclusion of sex from the hate crime protected characteristics, and aspects of the extension of the offence of stirring up hatred.

Legislating for hatred against women: the view from the coalface
MBM analysis – 04/12/2020
Giving evidence to the Justice Committee on 27 October, the Cabinet Secretary suggested that organisations “at the coalface” were supportive of the approach advocated by the bodies funded at national level to represent women’s interests.
In total, therefore, the Scottish Government obtained the views of six groups providing VAW services locally, of which five supported including an aggravator which would cover hatred against women.
We realise that the term “coalface organisations”, as used by the Minister, is open to interpretation. Of the other non-governmental organisations attending these meetings, City of Edinburgh Council and the Fife Centre for Equalities supported an aggravator rather than a standalone offence, SACRO did not appear to take a strong line on which should be pursued, while Glasgow City Council preferred a standalone offence.
…we think it would be fairer to say that the balance of opinion among those “organisations that represent and work with women at the coalface at a local level” who engaged with the Scottish Government was overwhelmingly in favour of the Bill treating hatred against women on a par with hatred based on other characteristics, with or without further exploration of a standalone offence.

Definition of ‘transgender identity’ in draft hate crime bill
What Do They Know FOI request to Scottish Government – 25/10/2020
(Need to analyse and summarise – all correspondence between Scottish Government officials and the following organisations about the definition of ‘transgender identity’ under the  draft Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill, prior to the Bill’s introduction in the Scottish Parliament: Equality Network/Scottish Trans Alliance, LGBT Youth Scotland and Stonewall)

In 2016, Nottinghamshire Police introduced a Misogyny Hate Crime policy. An evaluation on the impact of the policy was conducted two years later in 2018, and it highlighted some interesting points.

  • The Police were able to send a clear public message that behaviour which denigrates, marginalises and disrespects women is never acceptable and would be challenged. It also helped reassure women that these types of behaviours would be treated seriously by the Police if reported. See press release for more details.
  • Women felt more confident in challenging men who targeted them, as they knew they had the backing of police policy.
  • Women from BME groups often experienced misogyny hate crime and racial hate crime simultaneously and felt doubly vulnerable to attack.

The Nottinghamshire report did indicate that the use of the term ‘misogyny’ was poorly understood amongst the general public and therefore an alternative name would be a better approach. This indicates that any Hate Crime legislation should implement an easily understood term that makes it clear it is based on the characteristic of sex (and not conflate it with words like ‘gender’). In addition to the legislation, there might be some merit in nationwide campaigns to raise awareness of such laws and enable the general public to understand that hate crime involves the prejudicial targeting of people on the basis of a protected characteristic such as sex, and that it involves an assertion of power over another that is experienced as hostile behaviour rather than a narrow focus on ‘hate’.

Citizens UK – Make misogyny a hate crime

Citizens UK welcomes Law Commission’s recommendation to protect gender under hate crime laws

Citizens UK – New research shows women are three times more likely than men to experience both threats and acts of sexual violence and assault
Report – Overcoming everyday hate in the UK


The Scotsman – 22/03/2021
Great niece of SNP founder reveals she chalked women’s rights message at government HQ
“…on the evening of Wednesday, February 24, two uniformed police officers appeared at the 52-year-old’s door, asking questions about her chalk protest and, she says, suggesting that any future similar behaviour could result in a charge of breach of the peace.”

Harry Miller vs Humberside Police and the College of Policing – 14/02/2020
High Court Judgement
Pages 13-15 describes how a person who does not know Mr Miller, and has never had any interaction with him, managed to take great offence at some of his tweets on the social media platform Twitter.
Pages 15-17 details the process of how the ‘victim’ proceeded to complain to the police and which resulted in the creation of a non-crime hate incident without any scrutiny or assessment of the claims being made. A Hate Incident Record was generated against Mr Miller even though there was no crime or evidence of hate.

The Times – 19/02/2020
Offensive jokes logged in ‘non-crime’ databases
In the past five years Police Scotland has logged more than 3,300 “hate incidents” that involve no criminality.

GCN – 20/11/2020
Community leaders have launched an open letter calling for solidarity for our trans siblings on this Trans Day of Remembrance.
Letter signed by organisations such as National Women’s Council of Ireland and Amnesty International.
“Let us say unequivocally that the statements of newly launched organisations that seek to defend biology or fight gender identity and expression do not represent the wider LGBTI+ community nor feminists in Ireland. More importantly, they are not organisations at all, they have no governance, no accountability, and are simply Twitter accounts. Further, they are not supported by the wider Irish community.”
We call on media, and politicians to no longer provide legitimate representation for those that share bigoted beliefs, that are aligned with far right ideologies and seek nothing but harm and division. These fringe internet accounts stand against affirmative medical care of transgender people, and they stand against the right to self-identification of transgender people in this country. In summation they stand against trans, women’s and gay rights by aligning themselves with far right tropes and stances. They have attacked LGBT+ education in school, attacked anti-bullying campaigns, and attack access to medical services.”
“Sex and gender are both spectrums, and the full beauty of that spectrum must be supported and included.”

(Letter indicates self-id has broad societal support and was obtained transparently. Can reference IGLYO and Denton’s document on how self-id was passed in Ireland without public debate and scrutiny.)

The Edinburgh Tab – 27/11/2020
More transphobic stickers have been found on Edinburgh Uni campus
This is a good example of how someone (not even a trans person) can take offence at some stickers seen around the area and view them as ‘hate’.
The woman mentioned in the article made the statement – “I also think hate speech is not free speech so I had every right to take them down.”
There is also another important admission in the article from EUSA’s Trans and Non-Binary Liberation Officer – “Anyone who sees stickers like this should send photos to campus security, so they can be included in ongoing hate crime statistics that are reported to the police.”
This shows that people are being encouraged to report to the police any stickers that they personally and subjectively deem to be ‘hateful’ or ‘offensive’ or ‘upsetting’. This will potentially inflate the hate crime statistics.
What happens when Hate Crime legislation is brought in and such stickers are viewed as ‘stirring up hatred’?

BBC News – 11/12/2020
Terror trial told of ‘incels’ cyber-culture backing attacks on women
This is a very clear (and ongoing) example of a hate crime on the basis of sex by inciting violence against women, and yet because ‘sex’ is not listed as a characteristic in the Hate Crime legislation, this fact will not be used as an aggravating factor during sentencing, nor will this crime be captured in hate crime statistics.


There’s been an outbreak of slates…

Wonderful messages written on slates have been appearing all over Scotland, thanks to some adventurous women. Do you think you can spot some of the slates for yourselves? If you do, share your pictures on Twitter with the hashtag #WomenWontWheest.

The Edinburgh Reporter ran a brief article on the campaign – National campaign arrives in Edinburgh (22 November 2020)

You can view all the pictures on our Flickr photostream and we have also grouped many of them into albums by areas around Scotland. WSS takes no credit for the Slate Women campaign. We are simply collecting together images of the efforts of women taking action by themselves and with others.

Flickr Photostream


You can join the campaign too! Scotland is never short of slates. Find a few pieces, give them a good clean and then write messages on them using paint. It can be about women’s rights, freedom of speech, quotes from books, or your thoughts and concerns in your own words. Place the slates in locations where you think other people might come across them. If you are able to, you can drill some holes around the edges of the slates so they can be secured with plastic ties to help them stay in place.

Take pictures of your artistic accomplishment (make sure you zoom in so the written message is easy to read) and send them to us at info@womenspeakscotland.com with a rough idea of the location. We will add it to the rest of the online collection.

Privacy Policy

Email John Swinney about content of RSHP material

There is a template available at the For Women Scotland website to help parents write their own emails to John Swinney, Cabinet Secretary for Education, about several concerning aspects of the Relationship, Sexual Health and Parenthood (RSHP) material.

It would be great if as many parents as possible were to do this. The example letter does a great job of outlining the main issues – and they are pretty worrying.

Privacy Policy

Make the Census make sense

To those in Scotland – please email your MSPs as a matter of urgency.

MurrayBlackburnMackenzie have summarised the current state of issues around the upcoming census in March 2021 for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and March 2022 for Scotland.

To quote from their blog post:

All three census authorities have committed to the longstanding, compulsory sex question, which will continue to enable respondents to answer either ‘female’ or ‘male’. In addition, the census in England, Wales and Scotland will carry a new, voluntary question on gender identity.

The three census authorities also intend to include accompanying guidance which advises respondents to answer the sex question based on their self-declared gender identity, not their sex.

The sex question guidance in England, Wales and Northern Ireland has not yet been finalised, and is currently subject to further testing by ONS. But, whilst the census has been delayed in Scotland, the National Records of Scotland (NRS) appear to be treating the guidance as a done deal. Whether the recent assessment by the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) will prompt NRS to reopen discussion on the guidance remains to be seen. There is still also the possibility of ONS either altering or dropping its guidance as a result of further testing, which NRS will need to factor into its decision-making.


Lisa Mackenzie (from MBM) emphasised we have a very tiny window available in Scotland as the guidance was meant to be completed by the “end of the summer”, but she hasn’t seen anything yet. So, it is worth us emailing our MSPs now as a highest priority. It is possible we may just have weeks to comment on the guidance and get it changed (apparently it is not covered by legislation so should be “easier” to influence if our interpretation is correct).

Woman’s Place UK have a template to help guide people to write to their MPs, the ONS and the UK Minister for Women and Equalities about the proposed guidance to accompany the sex question in the census. You can use it as a starting point to email your MSPs.

Some further points that you could include and expand in your own words:

It is vital that all census data should be accurate and consistent across the UK. We should know that sex in England and Wales and Northern Ireland means the same thing in Scotland, otherwise provision of services, funding, health initiatives, etc in one nation cannot be compared to the others in the union. The data gathered will be meaningless if we all mean different things, and trying to combine data from all nations into UK wide statistics will be a pointless exercise.

A census is an exercise in accurate data collections and knowing what you are measuring is vital. Any confusion or ambiguity helps no-one – robust data will help trans people too as it will give policy makers and researchers a better understanding of the demographics involved and where there might be gaps in the provision of services.

It is said that some trans people, or at least those that claim to be speaking for them, do not want to admit they are trans, so filling in their sex accurately is associated with the unpleasant emotions it provokes. The ONS and NRS have responded by changing the guidance so you can basically declare whatever sex you want.
However, if a census is a data collection exercise and a group of people don’t want to be measured then we shouldn’t be measuring them if the consequence is ruining the accuracy of the data.

The state should not be actively guiding people to answer sex as gender identity – we need robust, high quality data for men and women to address any discrimination and disadvantage experienced on the basis of sex. As seen with COVID-19, men may be dying at higher rates as a result of the virus, while women may suffer as result of policy consequences due to the pandemic. Sex is a significant measurement of disadvantages and discrimination. It is unethical to collect inaccurate data – we need to be able to understand differences of outcomes in people’s lives, we need to be able to monitor trends between sexes, to design evidence-based policies and determine if such implemented polices are successful.

You can use the WriteToThem website to email your MSPs.

Privacy Policy


Where we are ALL welcome, ALWAYS

Photo by Freestocks on Unsplash

8 AUGUST 2020

Early on the morning of Monday, 3rd August, the Lush shop on Princes Street, Edinburgh posted this on their Facebook account : 

Anyone passing our store this morning you may have seen that our store has been targeted by a transphobic group, because of this we have a new window graphic. We just wanted to let everyone know the following – “Please do not enter our store with signs of Covid-19, Racism, homophobia, sexism or transphobia!”

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Well, our curiosity was piqued, what ON EARTH had been painted over their window, smeared on their shop front, dumped in their doorway? It turns out someone had stuck a small black sticker on the bottom of the front window that said (looking just like the image below, taken after a stickering session on another Lush window in the UK) :


Horror of horrors! A woman felt the need to express a desire to keep women’s prisons for women. Well in that case, we fully understand why Lush felt the need to demonstrate their desire to keep their working environment free of racism, homophobia, sexism, transphobia and the plague. And no, we don’t know why it is okay to march in and show signs of being offensive to any disabled members of staff (unless disabled members of staff are not welcome already, but we’ll come back to that).

It came as a bit of surprise then to hear on the World Women Web that similar passive-aggressive signs were appearing in other Lush windows, and the wording was pretty similar. Although @Londonjenster and @jonobbs posted images of their Wimbledon Bridge and Manchester Lush branches and, quite frankly, we’re disappointed to see that sexism turns out to be optional in other parts of the country! Surely not, Lush? 

The Facebook images were posted on Twitter and it provoked quite a response from rather upset women, wondering if Lush were accusing them of being transphobic if they agreed with the “keep prisons single sex” sign? At that point all the ‘Love and Respect’ for Lush disappeared when an article from 2013 was shared (link at bottom of page), about a publicity attempt by Lush to claim a Guinness World Record for the most kisses collected in 12 hours. The female staff were asked to wear plain white t-shirts and customers were encouraged to kiss spaces on the t-shirt to record them. The experience of the female member of staff was pretty awful to read :

Large groups of drunken men were passing through the city centre on their way to the local bars and were drawn in by our display. From then on, they donned lipstick and kissed the most inappropriate places they could find – our breasts, our buttocks and our crotches (the t-shirts were quite long).

You can’t help by wonder who in Lush management thought that repeating this across their UK branches, having their female staff groped and abused in this way, was a good idea. And on the day, what were local management doing to protect their staff as customers took advantage of the situation?

I felt helpless and exploited, and that’s because I was. Lush know that their staff are mostly young women, and they knew exactly how this type of campaign would play out amongst the general public. I’ve lost count of how many campaigns they’ve had that’ve sexualised and dehumanised women, and all of my complaints have fallen on deaf ears.

So, we wondered, was this just a one-off, a single day of poor judgement on Lush’s behalf? Lush, who state within their Lush Ethical Charter that :-

Lush is a place that best represents either their personal values, their priorities or their world view; a company that strives to do good business without exploiting people, planet or animals.

More stories rolled in to Twitter :-

  • 2007 : “In the summer of 2007 Lush staff had a very cheeky day of campaigning against the over packaging of products – they went naked! On the 12 July (at noon sharp!) in 55 cities in the UK, Lush staff took to the streets” (Lush)
  • 2017: (US) “Lush Cosmetics employees have done nude across the country in a protest against over packaging of products.” (Daily Mail)
  • 2017 (CA) “From Vancouver to Montreal, employees of Lush shops wore nothing but their signature black aprons as they encouraged consumers to educate themselves on the devastating environmental impact of packaging pollution.” (Huffington Post)
  • 2019: (UK) “Lush in Manchester’s Market Street has given all its products a make-under. Today, (January 18), the store reopened as a ‘naked shop’, the first of its kind in the country, having stripped its handmade bath and beauty products of plastic. And to mark the occasion, the staff stripped off to just their aprons.” (Secret Manchester)

We’re not convinced that Lush were doing the best for their staff and not exploiting them. We don’t know if staff could refuse to take part (and not lose their jobs) but we don’t believe that anyone should have to worry about that when going to work each morning. Some may argue men were also naked for these events so it can’t have been exploitative and sexist can it (although Lush staff, weekend staff in particular, are predominantly female).

Well how about “torturing” a woman in a shop window, to make by passers think about animal testing then? :

This was not a sexy version of the oppression of women. It was designed to challenge public apathy about animal testing.

It was a performance of violence (not violence against women) where – unsurprisingly – the oppressor was male and the abused was vulnerable and scared. We felt it was important, strong, well and thoroughly considered that the test subject was a woman.

We are sorry if this has hurt women who have suffered sexual violence or assault. It is a horrible compromise that a performance of animal testing and abuse could conjure up such distressing lived memories for real women. (Guardian)

“It upset me – I don’t like the thought of animals being treated that way, I certainly don’t like the thought of people being treated in that way. But it doesn’t hurt to be reminded.” Lush CEO – Mark Constantine (BBC)

Perhaps we can see now why displaying signs of sexism is just fine in some of their shops? But this isn’t just about sexism and exploiting their employees’ bodies. Oh no. As previously mentioned, several commenters pointed out that it was presumably fine to abuse disabled staff, and lo and behold @Lush_badplace has quite a story to tell about that. A story was passed on from an anonymous ex-employee and reading it in Twitter is the most effective way to read it (and we really encourage you to do so at the link below, and you don’t need a Twitter account to read it), but we enclose some of the lowlights – and there were only lowlights :-

While we accept that no employer is going to be perfect, unfortunately, and there will always bad local management, we’re not convinced that the virtue-laden signs in shop windows across the UK, or the quite disturbing trend to get staff to work naked apart from an apron, is anything but an indication of a ‘woke” company doing its best to appear kind and ethical, while overlooking the welfare of its staff. And we are particularly annoyed at the suggestion that women – who believe that their sex is a biological reality – are transphobic and are unfit to cross Lush’s threshold. But you know, it doesn’t really matter because we have absolutely no intention of crossing their threshold and giving them money ever again, and we hope you will join us. And it turns out that at Lush’s place, we’re not all welcome, always.

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P.S. Someone asked on the Edinburgh Lush Facebook page whether certain clothing would count as a “sign of transphobia” :

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And it turns out that the answer was yes! Wear a t-shirt with an Oxford English Dictionary definition on it and you will be asked to leave. So, we’d be interested in hearing from anyone who feels like carrying out a field experiment to see if Lush really don’t approve of word definitions.

Mitherings from Morningside – The Smell of Bullshit, part 22: Sexual Harassment is Part of the Job

The Lush Ethical Charter

Lush Naked Apron

Daily Mail – Lush staff show up to work completely naked

Secret Manchester – Lush Staff Went Naked To Celebrate The Opening Of A Plastic-Free Store In Manchester

Huffington Post – Lush Cosmetics Staff Stripped Down To Get Costumers To Reconsider Extra Packaging

The Guardian – Lush’s human performance art was about animal cruelty not titillation

Twitter – LushIsTheBadPlace