Comedians and actors will not be targeted under hate crime law – Police Scotland

Actors and comedians will not be targeted under new hate crime laws, Police Scotland has said.

Media reports indicated that stirring up hatred under the new Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act could be communicated “through public performance of a play”, according to training modules they had seen.

The module stated the material could be shared through platforms such as “podcasts and social media” and spread through “email, playing a video” as well as plays.

Several Scottish Conservative MSPs condemned the reports on X, formerly Twitter, with an official statement from the party’s justice spokesman Russell Findlay saying the training was at “odds with the legislation”.

However, Police Scotland said the reports were based on training material from Scottish Government explanatory notes which accompany the legislation.

The statement said a “range of scenarios” were included, but stressed officers had not been told to target those particular situations or locations.

The law, passed in 2021, comes into effect in April and makes it an offence to stir up hatred against protected characteristics, including age, disability, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity.

Police Scotland said: “Police Scotland is not instructing officers to target actors, comedians, or any other people or groups.”

The statement added: “Police Scotland is a rights-based organisation and officers balance the protections people have under human rights legislation against other laws every day.

“Our training for the new Act therefore reminds officers of their human rights obligations and it reflects all aspects of the new legislation, including the protection it includes around freedom of expression.”

Harry Potter author JK Rowling, 58, is among the critics of the legislation, which she argues limits free speech.

She said she will not delete social media posts which could breach the “ludicrous” law.

Harry Potter and The Cursed Child Opening Gala – Arrivals
JK Rowling said she will not remove posts which could fall under new hate crime laws (Yui Mok/PA)

It comes after she was embroiled in a misgendering row with transgender broadcaster India Willoughby.

Police in Northumbria cleared Ms Rowling of criminality after she said the broadcaster was “cosplaying a misogynistic male fantasy of what a woman is”.

And on X, the author said she would not delete any comments which could be considered criminal in Scotland from April.

She said: “If you genuinely imagine I’d delete posts calling a man a man, so as not to be prosecuted under this ludicrous law, stand by for the mother of all April Fools’ jokes.”

At the time, Ms Willoughby said the author had “definitely committed a crime”.

She added: “I’m legally a woman. She knows I’m a woman and she calls me a man. It’s a protected characteristic.”

Meanwhile, a Downing Street spokeswoman said Prime Minister Rishi Sunak would not consider similar laws in England.

A No 10 spokeswoman said: “I wouldn’t want to comment or speculate about individual cases but the Prime Minister himself believes in free speech. For example, he has been very clear on what the definition of a woman (is) and that biological sex matters and he doesn’t believe that that should be controversial.

“For the Government’s part, we would never and are not introducing any similar kind of legislation here in England. And we’d be very aware of the potential for chilling effects on free speech.”