Police Scotland has denied “instructing officers to target actors, comedians, or any other people or groups” when it comes to enforcing the country’s new hate crime law. 

The comment from the force comes after details of the training given to the rank-and-file was leaked to The Herald. 

A slide from the training module deals with “how might threatening and or abusive material be communicated.”

One of the “different ways in which a person may communicate material to another person”  is “through public performance of a play.”

That sparked outrage, with the Scottish Tories saying this appeared to be at odds with the legislation.

READ MORE: Ministers under pressure to delay hate crime law start date

The Hate Crime and Public Order Act consolidates some existing laws and creates a new offence of stirring up hatred against protected characteristics, including age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, and transgender identity.

In a statement, the force said the training had been “developed in close consultation with stakeholders to ensure all characteristics protected by legislation under the new Act are clearly represented and articulated, and that officers are best prepared when they respond to hate crimes and incidents.”

They said it had been “based on the Scottish Government's explanatory notes which accompany the legislation” which “included examples of a range of scenarios where offences might take place.”

However, they added that this “does not mean officers have been told to target these situations or locations.”

The force’s statement continued: “Police Scotland is a rights-based organisation and officers balance the protections people have under human rights legislation against other laws every day.

“Our training for the new Act therefore reminds officers of their human rights obligations and it reflects all aspects of the new legislation, including the protection it includes around freedom of expression.”

READ MORE: Scotland's Hate Crime Act has plenty of safeguards

Harry Potter author JK Rowling is among the critics of the legislation, which she argues limits free speech.

She said she would not delete social media posts which could breach the “ludicrous” law.

It comes after she was embroiled in a misgendering row with transgender broadcaster India Willoughby.

Police in Northumbria cleared Ms Rowling of criminality after she said the broadcaster was “cosplaying a misogynistic male fantasy of what a woman is”.

And on X, the author said she would not delete any comments which could be considered criminal in Scotland from April.

She said: “If you genuinely imagine I’d delete posts calling a man a man, so as not to be prosecuted under this ludicrous law, stand by for the mother of all April Fools’ jokes.”

At the time, Ms Willoughby said the author had “definitely committed a crime”.

She added: “I’m legally a woman. She knows I’m a woman and she calls me a man. It’s a protected characteristic.”

Meanwhile, a Downing Street spokeswoman said Prime Minister Rishi Sunak would not consider similar laws in England.

A No 10 spokeswoman said: “I wouldn’t want to comment or speculate about individual cases but the Prime Minister himself believes in free speech. For example, he has been very clear on what the definition of a woman (is) and that biological sex matters and he doesn’t believe that that should be controversial.

“For the Government’s part, we would never and are not introducing any similar kind of legislation here in England. And we’d be very aware of the potential for chilling effects on free speech.”