Holyrood handed petition to scrap blasphemy laws

A new Holyrood bid to scrap Scotland’s centuries old laws on blasphemy has been launched amid fears the country is being left behind the rest of the UK and other European nations.

A petition lodged with MSPs says the laws are “archaic and unfathomable” at a time when non-religious minorities face persecution around the world.

The Humanist Society of Scotland says the laws are a “badge of shame” and backed the calls for the Scottish Government to scrap them. But the move has met with a frosty reception from the Catholic church which sees it as a further attempt to remove religion from Scots “civic and political” life.

Mark McCabe has lodged a petition at Holyrood which says the crimes of blasphemy and heresy should be axed in the same way as sedition was de-scheduled by the Scottish Parliament in 2010.

“It seems unfathomable that Scotland still has this archaic crime when the rest of Great Britain has abolished it, and all that theoretically stands between a person and prosecution is the good grace of the police and prosecutors,” he said.

The blasphemy law in Scotland includes denying the existence of God or uttering “impious or profane things” about God, according to the petition. It also wants to see heresy wiped from the statute book, along with profanity, which includes working or “engaging in amusement” on Sundays.

A spokeswoman for the Catholic Church said: “The last known prosecution for blasphemy in Scotland took place in 1843. Evidently, there is little concern in wider society that people of any faith, or none, could face prosecution under this historic law; rather it appears to be a rather cynical attempt to further remove any vestige of religion from civic and political life.”

• Full story at The Scotsman.