How Scotland's Controversial Hate Crime Law Stirred JK Rowling, Joe Rogan and Elon Musk – Politico

“Do you see this brutal nonsense in Scotland where they target comedians with hate crime laws?” Joe Rogan, the world's most popular broadcaster, asked his guests on a recent episode, after he seized on claims – quickly denied by Scottish police – that officers would monitor hate speech “through the public performance of a play”.

Musk approvingly shared a post from Malaysian right-wing influencer Ian Miles Cheong, who claimed the law would lock up people who “show someone a spicy meme” about trans people or “mass migration”.

Closer to home, footballer-turned-pundit Ally McCoist has also objected to the legislation, arguing that he and 48,000 other fans would potentially break the law while watching his beloved Rangers take on arch rivals Celtic on Sunday. Scottish football – and the rivalry between Celtic and Rangers in particular – has long been plagued by sectarian hatred, which the Scottish Government has attempted to combat through previous legislation.

Conservative UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak backed Rowling this week, speaking of Britain's “proud tradition of free expression”. | Daniel Leal/AFP via Getty Images

Always keen to try to anger the Scottish National Government, UK Conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was quick to rally behind Rowling this week, speaking of Britain's “proud tradition of free speech”. His Westminster government has long fought the Scottish administration over protections for transgender people.

“Protect people”

The law represents a real test for Scotland's First Minister Youssef, who served as justice minister when it was first passed in 2021 and is now overseeing its entry into force.

Although a majority of lawmakers from all Holyrood parties except the Scottish Conservatives supported the bill at the time, it had a bumpy road to becoming law, and was amended in the process to tighten free speech provisions in the wake of the backlash.

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