PM backs JK Rowling as row over Scotland’s new hate crime laws escalates

Rishi Sunak has said people should not be criminalised “for stating simple facts on biology” as he backed author JK Rowling in her criticism of new Scottish hate crime laws.

The Harry Potter author, who has become a fierce critic of the Scottish government’s stance on transgender rights, dared police to arrest her as the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act came into effect yesterday.

The new measures aim to tackle the harm caused by hatred and prejudice, extending protections from abusive behaviour to people on grounds including age, disability, religion, sexual orientation and transgender identity.

Appearing to defend the author, Mr Sunak promised that his party will “always protect” free speech in a statement.

“People should not be criminalised for stating simple facts on biology,” he said.

“We believe in free speech in this country, and Conservatives will always protect it.”

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Humza Yousaf defends new hate crime laws

In a social media post criticising the new laws, Rowling insisted that the “legislation is wide open to abuse by activists who wish to silence those of us speaking out about the dangers of eliminating women’s and girls’ single-sex spaces”.

The 58-year-old argued: “It is impossible to accurately describe or tackle the reality of violence and sexual violence committed against women and girls, or address the current assault on women’s and girls’ rights, unless we are allowed to call a man a man.”

Reacting to comments made by Siobhan Brown MSP, a Holyrood minister who said people “could be investigated” for misgendering someone online, Rowling said: “I’m currently out of the country, but if what I’ve written here qualifies as an offence under the terms of the new act, I look forward to being arrested when I return to the birthplace of the Scottish Enlightenment.”

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Campaigners gather outside the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood in Edinburgh, to mark the introduction of the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act. The act consolidates existing hate crime legislation and creates a new offence of stirring up hatred against protected characteristics. Picture date: Monday April 1, 2024.
Campaigners gather outside the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood. Pic: PA

It came as a group of protesters staged a demonstration outside Holyrood against the new laws.

One of the organisers, Stef Shaw, told Sky News there is “great cause for concern” over the new legislation.

Mr Shaw, also known as the Glasgow Cabbie, said he saw no positives to the act, saying it will only cause major problems.

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Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf has maintained that he is “very proud” of the new laws, saying they will help protect against a “rising tide” of hatred.

He insisted that he is “very confident in Police Scotland’s ability in order to implement this legislation in the way it should”.

Chief Constable Jo Farrell said recently that the new laws will be applied “in a measured way”, promising there will be “close scrutiny” of how the legislation is enforced and what reports are received.

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