Controversial Scottish law enacted

by ian

On Monday, Scotland officially enacted its so-called Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act 2021 – a law that has drawn a lot of attention and concern.

Under the law’s wording, it is now considered an offense in Scotland to “stir up hatred” related to age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, transgender or other sexual identities. The maximum penalty for incurring such a crime stands at seven years.

Scottish Minister for Victims and Community Safety Siobhian Brown, one of the bill’s biggest advocates, tried defining the bill to Sky News during an interview this week.

But many see problems with such a bill – especially considering the subjective nature of it. The law considers offenses based on the interpretation of a “reasonable person.” That person has to see certain communicated material as a considerable attempt at being “threatening or abusive” with the intent of stirring up hatred based on characteristics.

Opponents of the law continue to voice concern over the effect it could have on freedom of speech. One conservative parliament member said he voted against the bill in 2021 because he could foresee cases where someone could be convicted under the bill for comments made in the privacy of his or her own home.

But proponents say the bill accounts for these concerns. In 2021, Cabinet Secretary for Justice Hamza Yousaf defended the bill’s wording and how authorities would handle prosecuting different cases.

Regardless, the bill was met with much disdain and criticism upon its enactment. One of the loudest critics was “Harry Potter” author J. K. Rowling.

In a series of posts on X, Rowling presented multiple examples of transgender individuals in Scotland – specifically men claiming to be women. She joked that it is now an offense to refer to them as men and acknowledged the glaringly obvious fact that they are, indeed, men.

Rowling then pushed for action to address sexual assault against women instead, and said that if anything she said “qualifies as an offence under the terms of the new act, I look forward to being arrested.”

Scottish police have since said they will not prosecute her for the posts. But it is worth noting that the police have expressed concern over the law as well – specifically concerning what they expect to be a large number of complaints that they are likely to receive.