SNP leadership candidates say JK Rowling is ‘brave’ and ‘a national treasure’

Two candidates bidding for the leadership of the Scottish National party agreed that JK Rowling was a “national treasure” during a televised debate.

The Scottish author of the Harry Potter book series has been the subject of sustained backlash due to her stance on transgender issues, which some critics have characterised as “transphobic”.

Ash Regan, Humza Yousaf and Kate Forbes were asked whether Rowling was a “national treasure” during Sky News’ leadership debate on Monday (13 March).

Yousaf, the Scottish government’s health secretary, said the author was “amazing in terms of the books she’s written, but I do disagree with her vehemently on the issue of transgender rights”.

Forbes and Regan, however, did not agree. “Yes, and I do think she’s brave,” Forbes said in response to the question.

Asked specifically if she disagreed with Rowling on transgender rights Forbes replied: “No I don’t disagree with her.”

Similarly, Regan replied: “I think she is a national treasure, yes. I think she was very brave to speak out on an issue where many women who had raised legitimate concerns were receiving quite threatening communications.”

Last year, Rowling wore a t-shirt calling the candidates’ predecessor Nicola Sturgeon a “destroyer of women’s rights”.

The statement was made over Sturgeon’s Gender Recognition Reform Bill, which aims to make it easier for transgender people to be legally recognised as their preferred gender.

Sturgeon responded to Rowling’s criticism, saying: “I’ve spent my entire life campaigning for women's rights and I'm a passionate feminist with lots of evidence behind that.”

Rowling began receiving criticism over trans issues in December 2019, when she came out in support of researcher Maya Forstater, a visiting fellow at the Centre for Global Development whose contract was not renewed after she made a number of anti-trans posts on social media.

In June 2020, Rowling called out an article’s use of the phrase “people who menstruate”.

You can read The Independent’s timeline of JK Rowling’s comments about women and transgender rights here.