Rishi Sunak’s “Facts On Biology” Counter To New Scottish Hate Crimes Law

London:

Controversial new laws in Scotland, which make stirring up hatred against a number of groups including transgender people an offence, were criticised after coming into force Monday.

The Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act — passed by Scottish lawmakers in 2021 but only now being rolled out — consolidates existing hate crime legislation while creating the new offence.

Scotland’s devolved government has said it is a response to the recommendations of an independent review into hate crime laws and ensures such protections “are fit for the 21st century”.

Protected characteristics under the new laws include age, disability, race, religion and sexual orientation, as well as gender identity.

But UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said no one should be punished for “stating simple facts on biology”.

“We believe in free speech in this country, and Conservatives will always protect it,” he said in a statement to the Daily Telegraph newspaper.

Author JK Rowling — an opponent of much of the gender identity movement, particularly in Scotland — also hit out at the legislation on free speech and other grounds.

It 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”, Rowling said in a lengthy online criticism.

“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,” she wrote.

Rowling has argued the new laws do nothing additional to protect women and girls, particularly as the Scottish government did not include women as one of the protected groups, although it has promised future legislation aimed at tackling misogyny.

Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell called the omission of women from the legislation an “astonishing exclusion”.

“The big flaw in this bill is it does not protect women against hate,” he told BBC radio.

Elon Musk, the owner of social media platform X, is among others to voice free speech concerns over the new laws.

However, Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf insisted he is “very proud” of the new laws, saying they will help protect against a “rising tide” of hatred.

Scottish police are being trained to enforce the legislation, although it has emerged more than a third of officers have not yet completed a required online course on the laws.

That has concerned critics, but Yousaf insisted he is “very confident in Police Scotland’s ability in order to implement this legislation in the way it should”.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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