New controversial hate crime laws will take effect from April 1, the Scottish Government has announced.

The Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act was passed by MSPs in March 2021 but its passage was one of the most difficult of the SNP’s time in government.

The Bill was heavily criticised throughout the process, with ministers repeatedly forced to climb down on certain provisions, such as the potential impact on performers.

The legislation will create a new offence of stirring up hatred against protected characteristics, including age, disability, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity, matching a similar offence based on race that has been on the statute book for decades.

Some concerns remain over the potential criminalisation of free expression.

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