HUMZA Yousaf has urged Edinburgh University to defend freedom of speech after protests forced the cancellation of the screening of a controversial film for a second time.

The First Minister said universities must be a place of debate however “robust” it may be.

The documentary Adult Human Female, which explores the fault lines in the gender debate was supposed to have been shown last night, after a December screening was axed. 

However, protesters prompted a second cancellation on safety grounds.

Made by independent filmmakers Deirdre O'Neill and Mike Wayne, Adult Human Female is billed as an "explainer about the issues, how far things have already changed for the worse for women and how difficult it has been to be heard, to be listened to". 

Critics have accused it of being transphobic by denying that trans women have equality with biological women, and claim it puts forward unevidenced arguments. 

Some university staff and student groups called for screening to be called off on the grounds the film was "a clear attack on trans people's identities". 

READ MORE: Adult Human Female - University of Edinburgh cancels second screening

The film directors say the accusation of transphobic is baseless and “designed to shut down debate”, and that there “there isn't an iota of hatred in our film". 

They added: "It is really important [the] screening goes ahead, because universities must be a place where disagreements can be discussed and different ideas held up to scrutiny." 

At First Minister’s Questions, Tory MSP Tess White raised the issue with Humza Yousaf.

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She said: “Last night, for the second time, the screening of the documentary Adult Human Female at Edinburgh University had to be cancelled as protesters blockaded entrances to the venue. Women were shut out and discussion about women’s rights was shut down. 

“Do you agree that freedom of speech should be defended in our academic institutions and will you join me in urging Edinburgh University to ensure the event can take place?”

Mr Yousaf said: “I do agree with Tess White about the importance of freedom of speech, and more so in our educational institutions like our universities. 

“They should be a safe space for debate, discussion, robust as that may well be.

“I haven’t seen the film in question, the Adult Human Female film. I don’t know the contents of it.

“My understanding is that there was a protest against the film taking place and there was a separate protest which ended up denying those who wanted to see the film access to the screening.

“Now it is of course a matter for Edinburgh University. I won’t look to intervene in that sense.

“But I think I’ve made it perfectly clear in relation to my stance on freedom of speech, particularly within universities.

“I see that as no conflict with the other stance that I’m very proud of, which is supporting trans rights. That is something that I am unequivocal about. 

“But we should ensure that our universities are a place - our universities and society more generally - are a place where we can have that even robust exchange of ideas. 

“I’m sure Edinburgh University has heard what I have had to say and what Tess White has had to say. 

“But it is really important that this is ultimately a decision for Edinburgh University to take.”