Scottish Leader Claims Criticism of Hate Speech Law Only From ‘Right Wing’, Despite Opposition from Liberals J.K. Rowling and Joe Rogan


Humza Yousaf, the far-left first minister of Scotland, has attempted to brand the outpouring of opposition against his government’s new draconian speech restrictions as being concocted by the “right wing”.

On Monday, the controversial Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act came into force, criminalising offensive statements — even those made in the privacy of one’s home — or “stirring up hatred” against a range of protected groups for characteristics including age, disability, race, religion, sexual orientation, and transgender identity. Those falling foul of the new law face up to seven years in prison even if it was found that it was not their intent to stir up hatred, but merely if it is believed it could be the result of their comments.

The anti-free speech law has drawn widespread criticism, including from law enforcement officials in Scotland, as well as from prominent figures such as Harry Potter author and Scottish resident J.K. Rowling, who dared police on Monday to arrest her as she vowed to continue to call biologically male transgender individuals men. This week, Siobhian Brown, a minister in Yousaf’s leftist-separatist Scottish National Party (SNP) government, said that “misgendering” someone on social media could lead to criminal charges under the new hate crime law.

The bill has also seen pushback internationally, with comedian and podcast host Joe Rogan blasting Yousaf’s government as being “out of their fucking mind” over reports that the law could potentially be used to crack down on statements made on stage by comedians or during other theatrical performances, which Rogan warned could have negative ramifications for the Edinburgh Fringe comedy festival held annually in the Scottish capital. Meanwhile, Tesla chief Elon Musk said that the law in Scotland demonstrated “why it is so important to preserve freedom of speech.”

Firing back at the mounting criticism of the legislation he spearheaded during his time as Nicola Sturgeon’s justice secretary, First Minister Humza Yousaf attempted to discount the opposition — including from longtime liberals like Rogan and Rowling — as merely a right-wing attack.

“They are right-wing actors of course and I think it’s very clear, from particularly someone like Joe Rogan, that there’s never going to be sympathy for the fact we are bringing in legislation that is clamping down on hatred. So I’m not surprised by his criticisms necessarily. What I would say is the threshold of criminality in terms of the new offences is very, very high indeed. Your behaviour has to be threatening or abusive and intended to stir up hatred,” Yousaf said in comments reported by the Scottish Daily Express.

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“And I’ve asked this question of many people who’ve opposed the act: ‘Can they give me an example of behaviour that is threatening or abusive and intends to stir up hatred that they don’t think should be prosecuted?’ And no answer comes. So the thresholds are very high, freedom of expression protections are embedded within the bill and of course police have clarified they’re not going to be targeting comedians or playwrights as has been suggested by some who spread disinformation.

“I’m very confident we’ve got a robust piece of legislation that will protect people against the riding tide of hatred we see right across the world.”

However, despite the claims from the far-left minister — who remains deeply unpopular within his own country a year after being installed as scandal-ridden Nicola Sturgeon’s replacement without recourse to the electorate — members of Yousaf’s own police force come out with warnings against the law.

The Scottish Police Federation (SPF), in a letter to the Scottish parliament’s justice committee, warned the law could be “weaponised” by the “activist fringe” of the nation and that their officers have not had sufficient training to enforce the law.

Additionally, Chief Superintendent Rob Hay, of the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents (ASPS), warned that the law could damage the reputation of the police among the public, particularly among those who feel they have been persecuted unfairly.

“We might find ourselves in the position where a member of the public feels quite aggrieved for having their details recorded and kept for behaviour that doesn’t meet that criminal threshold. So there are two ways potentially that we could damage trust and confidence in the police – around whether the police response meets with expectations, and whether have the police exceeded themselves in involving themselves in non-criminal matters,” Hay said.

Concerns have also been raised over citizens being tarnished with police records even if it is found that they did not commit a crime. Scottish parliamentarian Murdo Fraser recently threatened to launch legal action against Police Scotland after it was revealed that comments he made on social media comparing those who identify as non-binary to those who identify as cats had been logged by police as a “hate incident” despite them finding that his comments did not breach the law at the time.

Further undercutting Yousaf’s claims that the opposition to the speech restrictions is merely a right-wing phenomenon, nearly 1,000 people gathered outside of the Scottish parliament at Holyrood on Monday to protest the law. Demonstrators expressed concerns that the law could have a chilling effect on speech and that it could be used by the left-wing government to impose its ideology on the rest of the country.

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Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak came out on Tuesday in opposition to the law when asked about J.K. Rowling, saying on Tuesday: “We should not be criminalising people saying common sense things about biological sex, clearly that isn’t right,” adding: “We have a proud tradition of free speech.”

The Harry Potter author and ardent feminist also drew support from Brexit leader Nigel Farage who said: “We’ve got to get back to the idea that we should be able to say what we think, if others take offence, so blooming what. Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me, let’s get back to that.”

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