Scotland: No Country for Young Men

Scotland: No Country for Young Men

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Scotland recently took a giant step towards becoming one of the most restrictive countries in Europe. The adjective ‘Orwellian’ trips too easily off of the lips these days, but with severe and significant restrictions to free speech being introduced in the contents of the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act 2021, which came into force on 1 April 2024, it is hard to imagine a more apt description.

According to the Scottish government’s own website, the Act “creates new stirring up of hatred offences for protected characteristics including age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, and transgender identity.” At face value, this seems reasonable. It is not nice to express hateful feelings towards people on the basis of their characteristics, immutable or adopted, and it cannot be pleasant to be at the receiving end of hateful abuse. But to elevate verbal abuse and hurt feelings to the status of a crime is to pave the way towards a police state or, as is the case of Scotland, to take another step towards a police state. Scotland already has a unitary police force, Police Scotland, formed in 2013.

The formation of Police Scotland abolished the regional police authorities in Scotland and put policing across the whole country under the control of the Scottish Police Authority, a body of the government. Police Scotland has enthusiastically taken to its role in policing hate crime. They have developed a training package which contains the apparently contradictory statement that the package includes “examples of a range of scenarios where offences might take place, but this does not mean officers have been told to target these situations or locations.” If so, then why include those “situations or locations”?

The precise nature of the “situations or locations” is not in the public domain. However, leaked documents suggest that police training goes beyond the already wide-ranging bounds of the Act to include public performances such as plays and comedy acts where the content could be deemed offensive. The Act already covers not only the generation of speech, writing, or performance considered hateful, but also the sharing of it by any means, including social media and private emails. In fact, as explained recently in The Spectator, the Act “covers anything said anywhere—even in your own home. Children will in theory be able to report their parents. Scots can inform on each other anonymously, through an expanded network of ‘third-party reporting centres’.” Mao’s Cultural Revolution meets 1984.

Police Scotland have signalled how seriously they will be taking hate crimes, saying “Police Scotland treats all hate crimes seriously. We want you to report it.” But so vague is the notion of hate crime that they urge the public, “If something happens and you are not sure if it is a crime, please remember, if it feels wrong, report it and let us help.” Their proclamation that they will investigate every complaint must be reassuring to the perpetually offended, but is probably less so to the victims of vandalism or theft, crimes which, under their investigation policy, will no longer be investigated where there are “no witnesses or evidence.” It is estimated that there is a burglary every two hours in Scotland. The policy is intended to free up police time so that they may tackle more serious crimes, but this seems unlikely if they are going to be constantly engaged in following up on reports of ‘hate crimes,’ many of which will be subjective and without witnesses.

Police Scotland have made it clear whom they will be targeting in their campaign, which seems itself akin to a campaign of hate. According to the ‘Hate Monster’—a cartoon character which drew so much ridicule from the people of Scotland that it was downplayed within days of first appearing but which is being used to promote their hate crime action—they will be targeting young, white, working-class males. In their own words: “We know that young men aged 18-30 are most likely to commit hate crime, particularly those from socially excluded communities who are heavily influenced by their peers. They may have deep-rooted feelings of being socially and economically disadvantaged, combined with ideas about white-male entitlement.” Thus, Police Scotland, presumably at the behest of the Scottish government, have shown their hand early. They have already decided who is guilty of a hate crime that, at the time the campaign launched, did not exist.

Developments in Scotland should be viewed against the backdrop of the economic and social disaster that has become a hallmark. Scotland depends on financial aid from England, particularly the southeast of England, for its survival. The block grant delivered to Scotland under the Barnett formula currently amounts to £41 billion a year for 2022-2025, outweighing most other sources of income to the Scottish government such as oil, whisky, tourism, and income tax. Simultaneously, Scotland has a burgeoning drug problem and its drug-related deaths are the highest in Europe. Tragically, while drug deaths amongst men are higher than amongst women, the drug death rate among women is growing, indicating an increasing use of illegal drugs by women. Concomitant with this increasing use of drugs amongst women is the birth of more drug-dependent babies, with over 1,300 born since 2017.

Meanwhile, the Scottish government pursues policies which it can ill afford, such as welcoming refugees and asylum seekers (at least the ones who can stand the climate), and adopts policies which defy logic, such as insisting that tampons are available under their Period Products Act—at public expense—in all male (as well as female) toilets in government buildings. In another move that was quickly reversed, the ruling SNP party appointed a man to the position of “period dignity officer.” Scotland has been at the forefront of gender recognition rights and aimed to be the first part of the United Kingdom to permit self-identification followed by rapid legal recognition of that status under its proposed Gender Recognition (Scotland) Bill. Unfortunately for the Scottish government and the SNP, they discovered that they were still part of the United Kingdom when, under section 35 of the Scotland Act 1998, the Secretary of State for Scotland prevented the Act from receiving Royal Assent.

Those on the political Left, where the SNP firmly sit, are not renowned for their sense of humour, and they clearly lack a sense of irony. But it is hard not to contrast the emphasis within the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act 2021 that blasphemy laws are no longer on the statute book in Scotland while, in the meantime, they create a new law which establishes what amounts to a new set of blasphemies. While religion is included as a protected characteristic, it is strongly suspected that this will favour Islam—the religion of Scotland’s current First Minister Humza Yousaf—while ignoring hate against Christians. The Scottish Catholic Bishops, not prone to hysteria or exaggeration, already fear that, under the 2021 Act, owning a bible or Christian catechism could become illegal, since these texts contain forthright views on the practice of homosexuality. I am certain that Muslims will have little to fear for having the Quran in their homes, containing as it does all manner of advice on how to treat both women and those of other faiths.

However, against the bleak landscape that is Scottish politics, all may not be lost in Walter Scott’s land of ‘brown heath and shaggy wood.’ Jim Telfer, a legend of Scottish rugby with 22 caps for Scotland, is clearly not in accord with recent developments. He has called for that dreariest of dirges, the ‘national anthem’ of Scotland, Flower of Scotland, to be banned due to its anti-English content. This would be a great service to sport and politics—and to music.

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