By Alex Claxton-Mayer
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2900

Transphobic attacks ramp up after new Scottish hate crime laws

JK Rowling and others have used the new hate crime law to attack trans people
Issue 2900
Trans pride last year before Scottish hate crime bill passed this year

Trans pride protests last year (Photo Credit: Guy Smallman)

The right are continuing to use Scotland’s new hate crime law to launch new attacks on trans people and other oppressed groups. The Hate Crime and Public Order Act became law in Scotland last week and brought in new offences for “stirring up hatred” relating to age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, transgender identity and being intersex. Author JK Rowling has taken a lead in attacking the legislation, but there are plenty of others who line up with her. 

She said, “If they go after any woman for simply calling a man a man, I’ll repeat that woman’s words and they can charge us both at once.” Rowling is encouraging the ­misgendering of trans people—­putting them at risk of harm and violence. What Rowling wants is free rein to target trans people and to deny gender self-determination. 

Rowling and her allies—which include Rishi Sunak—also ­suggest the act is a new instrument to destroy free speech and outlaw open debate. But that’s not true. The law only sets as an offence “threatening or abusive” speech that is “intended” to stir up hatred, which is a high bar.

And similar laws already exist—such laws haven’t crushed debate. Mark Walters, professor of ­criminal law at Sussex university, pointed out that “stirring up of hatred” provisions are not new to Scotland. “Stirring up racial hatred has been on the statue books since 1965. Statistics show that there are very few prosecutions for such offences each year. Between 2006 and 2016, there were just nine cases,” he said.

We have to challenge the myths and rotten politics that critics of the law put forward. But that doesn’t mean socialists should simply celebrate the act. One reason why is that such measures are often used by the right against the left.

Infamously the Public Order Act of 1936—supposedly introduced to deal with Oswald Mosley’s fascist Blackshirts—was only rarely used against fascists. Instead it was used against the left, to attack strikers, anti-war activists and pickets.

And more fundamentally, there’s a problem in trusting the state to wage a fight against oppression. The capitalist state is deeply racist and sexist and shouldn’t be trusted to defend trans people or any other oppressed group. It’s the cops who decide when it’s appropriate to arrest someone.

That doesn’t mean we should rip up laws—such as limited forms of equality legislation—which have been won by struggle. But we shouldn’t rely on laws from above to provide remedies—it is struggle that wins advances.

Cass review released on Wednesday

The Cass review into gender identity services for children and young people will be published on Wednesday. The review, led by Dame Hilary Cass, had an interim report published in 2022.

Following the publication of the interim review, it was announced that the Tavistock gender identity clinic for children, would be closing after the review criticised it.

When the full report is published, it is likely that the right will use it to ramp up transphobic attacks.

Sign up for our daily email update ‘Breakfast in Red’

Latest News

Make a donation to Socialist Worker

Help fund the resistance