JK Rowling launches attack on Scotland's Hate Crime Act with hashtag 'Arrest Me'

It came after an SNP minister said people ‘could be investigated’ for misgendering someone online
JK Rowling. Picture: Stuart C Wilson/Getty ImagesJK Rowling. Picture: Stuart C Wilson/Getty Images
JK Rowling. Picture: Stuart C Wilson/Getty Images

JK Rowling has launched an attack on Scotland’s new hate crime laws as she challenged the police to arrest her if they believe she has committed an offence.

In a series of posts on social media yesterday after the law came into force, the author listed a number of transgender women, including violent criminals and activists, and insisted “every last one” is a man.

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She said: “Freedom of speech and belief are at an end in Scotland if the accurate description of biological sex is deemed criminal.

"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.”

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Online misgendering ‘could be investigated’ in Scotland under new hate crime law

It came after Scotland’s minister for victims and community safety, Siobhian Brown, said people “could be investigated” for misgendering someone online under the new law.

Writing on X, formerly Twitter, Rowling said: "In passing the Scottish Hate Crime Act, Scottish lawmakers seem to have placed higher value on the feelings of men performing their idea of femaleness, however misogynistically or opportunistically, than on the rights and freedoms of actual women and girls.

"The new legislation 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, the nonsense made of crime data if violent and sexual assaults committed by men are recorded as female crimes, the grotesque unfairness of allowing males to compete in female sports, the injustice of women’s jobs, honours and opportunities being taken by trans-identified men, and the reality and immutability of biological sex.”

Her post ended with the hashtags #ArrestMe #AprilFools #HateCrimeActScotland.

Asked about Rowling’s comments, a spokeswoman for Police Scotland said: "We have not received any complaints."

The Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act came into effect on Monday, consolidating existing hate crime legislation and creating a new offence of stirring up hatred against protected characteristics, including age, sexual orientation and transgender identity.

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A stirring-up offence on the basis of race has been on the statute book in Scotland since 1986, but the new legislation has sparked concerns about a potential chilling effect on free speech. The Association of Scottish Police Superintendents (ASPS) has also warned of the risk of vexatious complaints.

Women have not been given protection under the law, with the Scottish Government instead promising to bring forward separate legislation to tackle misogyny.

On Monday, protesters gathered outside the Scottish Parliament to hear speeches condemning the legislation. Among those to address the crowd were representatives of the socially conservative Scottish Family Party.

A coffin was carried by activists to represent the “death” of free speech.

Humza Yousaf, the First Minister, insisted he is “very proud” of the legislation, which he said will help protect against a “rising tide” of hatred. He also said he is “very confident in Police Scotland’s ability in order to implement this legislation in the way it should”.

This is despite the force confirming more than a third of its officers have yet to complete an online training course. Police Scotland deputy chief constable Alan Speirs said 10,000 officers have undertaken a training course through the platform Moodle – but as of December 31, there were 16,363 full-time equivalent officers.

Speaking about the new legislation, the First Minister added: “Let’s remember of course that when it comes to stirring up offences of racial hatred, stirring up offences have existed since 1986, being policed with virtually no controversy whatsoever.”

Mr Yousaf has argued the legislation contains a “triple lock” of measures to protect freedom of expression. He has also spoken out against “disinformation” around the Act.

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Earlier, Ms Brown, the community safety minister, said those who misgender people on the internet could be investigated by the police.

She said: “It would be a police matter for them to assess what happens. It could be reported and it could be investigated – whether or not the police would think it was criminal is up to Police Scotland.”

The Ayr MSP added: “There is a very high threshold which is in the Act which would be up to Police Scotland, and what would have to be said online or in person would be threatening and abusive.”

Asked why women had not been included in the new legislation, Ms Brown said: “We’ll be going further for the protection of women through our misogyny bill, which will be laid down in parliament.”

Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said the omission of women from the new law was an “astonishing exclusion”. He added: “The big flaw in this Bill is it does not protect women against hate.”

Mr Tatchell also criticised the new law for allowing third-party reporting. He said: “With anonymity being granted, this could open the door to vexatious and malicious complainants who will go after people and use the third-party centre as a way of getting back at people.”

Asked whether the new law risks angering both sides in controversial debates, David Kennedy, general secretary of the Scottish Police Federation, said: “That will cause havoc with trust in police in Scotland, it certainly will reduce that.”

He said: “Our biggest complaint right from the beginning of this is there’s been no extra money given to the police service to provide the extra training. It’s another concern for us that it’s more work on police officers and less training. Two hours of online training is all we’ve had.”

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In a letter to Holyrood’s justice committee, the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents previously said the legislation could be “weaponised” by an “activist fringe” across the political spectrum.

Scottish Tory justice spokesman Russell Findlay said JK Rowling “speaks for many women across Scotland who see Humza Yousaf’s hate crime law for what it is - another SNP attack on women’s rights, just as we saw with Nicola Sturgeon's gender self-ID legislation”.

He added: “While gender self-ID has rightly been put in the bin, Yousaf's dangerous hate crime law should follow.”

Mr Findlay said police officers “would rather tackle real crimes and keep communities safe, rather than having to investigate malicious and spurious complaints”.

Police Scotland Chief Constable Jo Farrell, speaking at a meeting of the Scottish Police Authority board, previously said the force would apply the Act “in a measured way”. She added there would be “close scrutiny” of how the legislation is being enforced as well as what reports are being received.