Scotland’s Hate Crime Law: JK Rowling Defends Free Speech on Transgender Issue

JK Rowling has taken to social media to challenge Scotland’s new hate crime law, daring authorities to arrest her if they believe she has violated it. The acclaimed author, residing in Edinburgh, faced controversy as she referred to certain transgender women as men in various posts, which included convicted prisoners and public figures. Rowling asserted that if accurate depiction of biological sex is deemed illegal, it signifies the demise of freedom of speech and belief.

Scotland’s First Minister, Humza Yousaf, defended the new law, emphasizing its role in combating a growing wave of hatred. The Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act 2021 introduces the offense of “stirring up hatred” based on various characteristics including age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, transgender identity, or being intersex. Notably, the law does not extend protection to women as a collective group against hatred, a matter the Scottish government plans to address separately through a misogyny law.

Rowling’s remarks were made on social media platforms on the day the new legislation officially took effect.

JK Rowling has voiced her opposition to Scotland’s new hate crime law, expressing concerns about its potential impact on free speech. The renowned author criticized the legislation, stating that it prioritizes the feelings of individuals identifying as female over the rights and freedoms of actual women and girls. Rowling argued that accurately addressing issues such as violence against women and girls requires the ability to identify individuals based on biological sex.

Highlighting specific criminal cases involving transgender individuals, Rowling referred to them as men in her social media posts. She also expressed readiness to face arrest upon her return to Scotland if her statements were deemed offensive under the new law.

Despite the controversy sparked by Rowling’s remarks, Police Scotland confirmed that they had not received any complaints regarding her posts. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak defended the importance of free speech, asserting that individuals should not face criminalization for stating “simple facts on biology.” He reiterated his party’s commitment to safeguarding free speech rights.

Holyrood protest
Protesters gathered outside the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh


Under Scotland’s new hate crime law, individuals could face a maximum penalty of seven years’ imprisonment. The legislation prohibits communication or behavior deemed threatening or abusive with the intent to stir up hatred based on protected characteristics.

Previously, stirring up hatred based on race, sexual orientation, and religion was already illegal in Great Britain under the Public Order Act 1986. However, Scotland’s new act extends these provisions to cover additional protected characteristics. Notably, the threshold for the offense is lower for certain characteristics, including “insulting” behavior.

In England and Wales, laws against stirring up hatred over race, religion, or sexual orientation through threatening behavior remain in place.

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