Nicola Sturgeon’s law professor has been disciplined by the Open University (OU) after he warned of the Scottish hate crime Bill’s impact on those who maintain that men cannot become women.
Alistair Bonnington argued that the Bill would “make it a crime for anybody to deny that a ‘trans’ woman (ie a man) was a real woman,” adding “It looks like feminists in Scotland can look forward to incarceration.”
The former Honorary Professor of Criminal Law at Glasgow University, who taught the First Minister during her time there, made the comments in an online student forum for literature.
Prof. Bonnington’s comments were removed from the forum and he was issued with a disciplinary letter after the OU deemed them “hostile” and “degrading”.
Speaking to The Scottish Mail on Sunday, Bonnington said the move was an “absolute joke” and an attack on free speech.
I find it quite shocking for free speech to be treated as an expendable commodity by a university
He said: “Universities should be places where free debate can be had between people who hold different views. If we’re not allowed to debate things in universities then things have got into a bit of a mess.
“That’s just Stalinism basically and I find it quite shocking for free speech to be treated as an expendable commodity by a university.”
Bonnington added: “I’ve taught in universities for over 25 years, but it seemed to me extraordinary that a university would be basically enforcing a particular viewpoint.”
In response to Bonnington’s posts, a female student stated: “Trans women are women”. This comment remained up, leading another student to accuse the OU of double standards.
The student wrote: “surely you have to be impartial, you can’t just take down one point and leave another standing?”
Hate crime Bill
Earlier this year, Bonnington blasted the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill as “naïve” and “wholly unnecessary”.
The Bill is set to criminalise words or behaviour perceived as ‘abusive’ and intended to ‘stir up hatred’ against particular groups, but lacks sufficient protections for free speech.
Last month, Scottish Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf confirmed that campaigners who say that men cannot be women could be prosecuted.
He also maintained that he has no intention of including a defence in the Bill to protect conversations in the home from police intervention.