Yousaf: Racist graffiti shows need for ‘zero tolerance of hatred’

Scotland’s First Minister has said racist graffiti near his home showed the need for a “zero tolerance approach to hatred”.

Humza Yousaf spoke out after racist abuse related to his Pakistani heritage was sprayed on walls and fences of properties in Hamilton Steet, in the Broughty Ferry area of Dundee.

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The houses targeted were near the home the First Minister shares with his wife and children – with Monday’s incident also taking place on the day controversial, new, hate crime laws came into force in Scotland.

Commenting on the graffiti on social media, the First Minister said: “I do my best to shield my children from the racism and Islamophobia I face on a regular basis.

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“That becomes increasingly difficult when racist grafitti (sic) targeting me appears near our family home.”

He added it was a “reminder of why we must, collectively, take a zero-tolerance approach to hatred”.

His comments came in the wake Harry Potter author JK Rowling appearing to challenge police to arrest her for her views on transgender issues.

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The  writer, who has become an outspoken critic of the Scottish Government’s stance on trans rights, declared “freedom of speech and belief are at an end in Scotland if the accurate description of biological sex is deemed criminal”.

Harry Potter author JK Rowling is a prominent critic of the new hate crime legislation, which came into force on Monday. Photo: Yui Mok/PA.

Posting about the issue on social media, Rowling, who is out of the country at the moment, added if what she had written was an offence under the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act – which came into force on Monday – she would “look forward to being arrested when I return to the birthplace of the Scottish Enlightenment”.

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A Police Scotland spokesperson said while the force had received complaints in relation to Rowling’s social media post, “the comments are not assessed to be criminal, and no further action will be taken”.

Critics of the new legislation, who include business tycoon Elon Musk, have warned it could have a “chilling” effect on free speech.

UK prime minister Rishi Sunak has made clear his Government is “not going to do anything like” the new Scottish legislation, as he insisted: “We should not be criminalising people saying common sense things about biological sex.

“Clearly that isn’t right, we have a proud tradition of free speech.”

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Critics of Scotland’s new hate crime laws are concerned about their impact on free speech (Lesley Martin/PA)

The UK prime minister added that while it was not for him to comment on police matters, he “very strongly” supports the right to free speech.

However, Scottish Health Secretary Neil Gray – a key ally of the First Minister’s – branded Mr Sunak’s comments as “rather unhelpful”.

Mr Gray said while the Prime Minister is “obviously entitled to his view” it would be “most helpful if people understood, got behind legislation and sought to tackle hatred, rather than seeking to intervene to stop measures being in place to suppress hatred”.

Mr Sunak spoke out amidst the row over the new Act, which was brought in by the Scottish Government to consolidate existing hate crimes laws and to create a new offence of “stirring up” hatred against various groups of people.

Stirring up racial hatred was already a crime, with the new legislation extending this to other people on the grounds of age, disability, religion, sexual orientation and transgender identity.

Former Scottish Government minister Ash Regan has now said the legislation should be repealed.

When the Bill was passed in 2021 she was a junior minister, with Ms Regan – who is now an Alba MSP – saying she raised her concerns with Mr Yousaf, then the justice secretary.

Writing in The Times newspaper, she said she had raised “two core concerns” with him, about the “protection of vocal disagreement without fear of recrimination, and misogyny” – something Scottish ministers plan to bring in separate legislation to deal with.

With the Alba Party having launched a petition calling for the Act to be repealed, Ms Regan stated: “As a junior minister in 2021 I voted for a Bill that promised a pathway to additional protections.

“The reality, three years on, is that Scotland, our police and Parliament have been embarrassed, left to traverse a self-destructive pathway.

“The root cause of this is the erosion of good governance to safeguard our legislative processes. I must now side with those who call for repeal.”

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