Perthshire MSP Murdo Fraser threatens legal action against police over ‘hate incident’ row

Perthshire Tory MSP Murdo Fraser has threatened legal action against Police Scotland after his social media post was logged as a “hate incident”.

The veteran Conservative was shocked to discover in December he had been reported to officers over a gender critical post he made a month earlier on X.

Mr Fraser claimed being non-binary, which describes those who identify as neither male nor female, was as valid as “choosing to identify as a cat”.

The Mid Scotland and Fife regional MSP was not initially told by police that the remarks had been put down as a “hate incident”.

He only found out shortly before Christmas when a similar complaint was made to the ethical standards commissioner, a body which probes the conduct of elected politicians.

Mr Fraser said Police Scotland had behaved “outrageously” and warned the force was “attacking free speech” by not throwing out the complaint immediately.

The Tory MSP criticised Scotland’s chief constable, Jo Farrell, for not responding personally to his written concerns.

Instead, Mr Fraser got a reply from Perth’s chief inspector earlier this month, long after he first flagged his anger to police.

‘Attacking free speech’

Mr Fraser said: “Police Scotland has behaved not just outrageously, but unlawfully according to the legal advice obtained by the Free Speech Union.

“This is Police Scotland attacking free speech – but it is more sinister than that. My tweet wasn’t pointing a finger at an individual – it was critical of a Scottish Government policy.”

In the controversial post which was flagged to police, Mr Fraser had insisted the government should not be devoting any resources to non-binary identifying people.

The MSP added: “It is also grossly discourteous of the chief constable not to have responded personally to my letter in December.”

It comes as concerns grow over new hate crime laws which are set to be introduced in Scotland from the start of next month.

Fife crime writer Val McDermid. Image: Shutterstock.

Fife crime writer Val McDermid last week warned the updated rules could lead to vexatious complaints being made against authors and performers.

Police Scotland admitted there are concerns the laws could create “additional pressures” for officers.

Mr Fraser was backed by SNP MP Joanna Cherry over the row.

She said: “There’s not much Murdo and I agree about, but we do agree about freedom of speech so I support him fully in this legal action.

“Police Scotland are well aware that their policy of recording “non-crime hate incidents” needs reviewed.”

First Minister Humza Yousaf strongly defended his government’s policy last week, insisting there is a “triple lock” which ensures freedom of speech is protected.

But Mr Fraser added: “When the new hate crime legislation is enforced from April 1, police are going to be inundated with complaints – and many of them will be as baseless as the one directed at me.

“Police Scotland have said that they will investigate every complaint they receive – but at the same time they admit they don’t have the resources to investigate minor crimes and are severely overstretched.”

The Courier contacted Police Scotland for comment.

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