In Scotland, claiming sex is binary could result in criminal charges, a policy analysis group warns. The warning follows a “flawed and rushed” change to an upcoming hate speech legislation.
In January, Humza Yousaf, the justice secretary in Scotland, proposed an amendment to the upcoming hate crime legislation that would have protected free speech around transgenderism. However, the amendment was met with heavy criticism from the trans lobby.
The backlash from activists was so bad that Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland and leader of the ruling Scottish National Party (SNP), had to record a video imploring LGBT members of SNP not to leave the party. Consequently, Yousaf withdrew his amendment to the hate crime bill.
MurrayBlackburnMcKenzie (MBM), a policy analysis group has warned that the withdrawal of the amendment could result in individuals facing criminal charges for expressing views contrary to trans activists.
“Amendments that would have provided protection in relation to discussion on sex and gender identity were hastily introduced and then withdrawn after a backlash,” said one of MBM’s founders, Lucy Blackburn.
“At the last minute, the Scottish government has now brought forward flawed and rushed proposals, making proper scrutiny impossible,” Blackburn added.
Blackburn, who previously worked as civil servant in the Scottish government, added that the justice committee has a “mass of evidence” showing how individuals are facing harsh consequences for expressing support for the idea of biological sex.
“It has seen evidence that women have lost their jobs, faced disciplinary action, and had their details recorded on police databases for asserting that sex matters,” she said.
“In committee, the justice secretary refused to confirm that there are only two sexes. If politicians in Holyrood are worried about being labelled as hateful, or just hurtful, for putting beyond doubt that it will not be criminal to talk about sex as physical, binary, immutable and important, it is difficult to see how ordinary citizens can be confident the law will have their back.”
MBM is also criticizing the justice secretary for not consulting other state-funded groups before withdrawing his amendment.
“The Scottish government has frozen out the people most concerned about chilling effects in relation to sex and gender identity, consulting only with stakeholders that it heavily funds,” Blackburn added.
Others concerned with the withdrawal of the amendment include Adam Tomkins, a Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) affiliated with the Scottish Conservative Party. Last month, he said:
“I have to say I have been disturbed by the reaction I have seen to what were modest, innocent amendments put down by the cabinet secretary which I would have voted for.”
Speaking to MSPs, Yousaf said that individuals would not be prosecuted for vigorous debate surrounding transgenderism. Criminal charges would only apply to abusive and threatening actions with the intention of stirring up hatred.
Similar sentiments were aired by a spokesperson for the Scottish government.
“The bill does not prevent people expressing controversial, challenging or offensive views, nor does it seek to stifle criticism or rigorous debate in any way,” the government spokesperson said, speaking to The Times.