SNP commits to repeal of blasphemy law in Scotland

27 March, 2018

Photo: Barney Moss (CC).

The governing body of the Scottish National Party, which makes up the Scottish Government, has committed to removing the archaic criminal offences of blasphemy and heresy from Scottish law. Though the blasphemy law in Scotland has not been used since 1843, its very existence in law helps to justify the existence of deadly blasphemy and apostasy laws around the world. Humanists UK has welcomed the news and congratulated Humanist Society Scotland on a major campaign success.

The blasphemy law in England and Wales was scrapped in 2008 following extensive campaigning from Humanists UK, and thanks to amendments passed by Humanists UK patrons Evan Harris and Lord Avebury. Since 2015, when Humanists UK became a co-founder of the international End Blasphemy Laws campaign, five European countries have successfully repealed their blasphemy laws. In addition, both Canada and New Zealand have introduced legislation to repeal theirs, while voters in the Republic of Ireland will be deciding on the issue by referendum later this year. Humanists UK has also made regular use of its platform at the UN Human Rights Council to challenge foreign states which use blasphemy laws to persecute and oppress, including Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and others, as well as extra-judicial punishments against so-called blasphemers and apostates.

Commenting on the news, Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson said ‘We’re hopeful that this change of policy will lead to legislative action in Scotland before too long. Blasphemy laws are used all over the world to persecute non-religious people and religious and political minorities. Countries in the West must not give cover to some of the world’s worst human rights abusers by leaving these archaic and unjustifiable offences in statute.’


For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK’s Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson on or 020 7324 3072.

Since 2015, Norway, Iceland, Malta, France, and Denmark have repealed their blasphemy laws. Blasphemy laws remain in statute in a number of European nations, including Scotland, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, Germany, and Greece.

Northern Ireland Humanists, a section of Humanists UK, has been campaigning to repeal blasphemy laws in Northern Ireland. Humanist Society Scotland has been leading the campaign in Scotland.

Read more about the End Blasphemy Laws coalition:

Read more about Humanists UK’s work on freedom of religion and belief:

Read more about Humanists UK’s campaign to end blasphemy laws:

At Humanists UK, we want a tolerant world where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work helps people be happier and more fulfilled, and by bringing non-religious people together we help them develop their own views and an understanding of the world around them.

Humanists UK recently changed its name from the British Humanist Association: