Humza Yousaf defends Scotland hate crime law after Elon Musk and Joe Rogan criticism

PERTH, SCOTLAND - MARCH 16: First Minister Humza Yousaf speaks at the SNP Campaign Council on March 16, 2024 in Perth, Scotland. The event at Perth Concert Hall seen delegates and members from across Scotland gather to discuss policies and the upcoming general election. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Scottish first minister Humza Yousaf has hit back at Elon Musk and Joe Rogan’s criticism of Scotland’s new Hate Crime Act.

The Scottish government’s new hate crime bill – the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act – came into force on Monday (1 April) and has proved controversial in some quarters, with Harry Potter author JK Rowling describing it as “ludicrous”.

The legislation, which was passed in 2021, is a response to recommendations made in Lord Bracadale’s independent review of hate crime laws: It expands on existing laws, changes the definition of trans identities and adds new protections against offences aggravated by prejudice towards a person’s age.

X owner Elon Musk and US political pundit Rogan have both spoken out against the law, claiming it will stifle free speech and be used to target comedians and artists.

Musk weighed in on the law by sharing a post by Malaysian right-wing influencer Ian Miles Cheong, who wrote: “Under the new hate crime law, people who make fun of or misgender trans people, make racial jokes or criticisms of certain religions, or criticize migrants can be prosecuted.”

“Repeat a joke you heard online, or show someone a spicy meme or commentary of a transgender person or mass migration on your livestream, and, and [sic] you too will be arrested,” Cheong also said.

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Musk and Rogan believe the law will impact free speech (Michael Schwartz/Kirsty Wigglesworth – WPA Pool/Getty Images)

In response, Musk wrote that Cheong’s words are “an example of why it is so important to preserve freedom of speech”.

Meanwhile, Joe Rogan claimed during a recent episode of his podcast that Scotland was “targeting comedians with hate crime laws”, branding the legislation “ridiculous”.

Speaking with LBC about the pair’s claims, SNP first minister Yousaf called Musk and Rogan “right-wing actors”, adding: “I think it’s very clear, from particularly someone like Joe Rogan, that here’s never going to be sympathy for the fact we are bringing in legislation that is clamping down on hatred”.

“So I’m not surprised by his criticisms necessarily,” Yousaf said. “What I would say is the threshold of criminality in terms of the new offences is very, very high indeed. Your behaviour has to be threatening or abusive and intended to stir up hatred.

“And I’ve asked this question of many people who’ve opposed the act: ‘Can they give me an example of behaviour that is threatening or abusive and intends to stir up hatred that they don’t think should be prosecuted?’ And no answer comes.”

He continued: “So the thresholds are very high, freedom of expression protections are embedded within the bill and of course police have clarified they’re not going to be targeting comedians or playwrights as has been suggested by some who spread disinformation.”

Yousaf added: “I’m very confident we’ve got a robust piece of legislation that will protect people against the rising tide of hatred we see right across the world.”

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