WE are currently experiencing a Trumpian-style of politics, which is exemplified by the misinformed public debate surrounding the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act and wood burning stoves.

Taking the Hate Crime Act to start, the Cabinet Secretary for Justice provided a statement to parliament on Tuesday to challenge some of the misinformation surrounding this legislation. I touched upon this in a previous column, but I feel it’s important to highlight some key facts once again.

Firstly, when we talk about hate crime, we are describing behaviour which is both criminal and rooted in prejudice; where the offender’s actions have been driven by hatred towards a particular group. Hatred for people just because of who they are.

What the Hate Crime Act does, is maintain and consolidate existing legislative protections against offences aggravated by prejudice against the following five characteristics: disability, race, religion, sexual orientation and transgender identity.

These are the same characteristics that are protected under hate crime legislation in England and Wales.

The Act also, for the first time, includes age as a characteristic. It also introduces new offences for threatening or abusive behaviour and the communication of threatening or abusive material which is intended to stir up hatred against a group of people who possess, or appear to possess, the characteristics outlined above. This could take many forms, including pictures, videos or information posted on websites.

Lord Bracadale, who led the independent review of hate crime legislation which led to this Act, was clear of the need for the legislation to include offences relating to stirring up of hatred, noting that “stirring up of hatred may lead to violence or public disorder”.

Again, these offences are similar to legislation in England and Wales, which has criminalised stirring up hatred on the grounds of religion since 2007 and sexual orientation since 2010.

I make these points to ensure constituents are informed of the facts and not the politically motivated hysteria. I would urge everyone to read the factsheet about the Act that has been published on the Scottish Government’s website.

Similarly, I feel I must challenge the misleading reports that wood burning stoves have allegedly been ‘banned’ in Scotland under the New Build Heat Standard (NBHS), which came into effect on 1 April. This is untrue, as existing homes are unaffected by the new regulations, and new-build homes may still install direct-emissions systems like wood burning stoves as an emergency back-up system.

For clarity, the NBHS was introduced following extensive public consultation in 2021 and 2022, continuous industry engagement, and scrutiny in the Scottish Parliament. The Statutory Instrument was passed in 2023. The responses to both public consultations were overwhelmingly in favour of the Scottish Government’s intention to regulate for zero-emissions heating systems in new buildings.

The decision to allow wood burning stoves or biomass systems as emergency heating was a response to feedback from rural communities during the consultation process.

These two examples demonstrate how misinformation is sadly permeating much of the political debate.