AN Edinburgh Fringe venue’s decision to cancel a show involving SNP MP Joanna Cherry  has been branded “plainly unlawful” by the Dean of the Faculty of Advocates. 

It emerged last night that staff and management at the Stand Comedy Club’s New Town Theatre told promoters that they were "unable to provide adequate staffing" for the event with the gender-critical politician.

This was because a number of staff at the venue raised "issues in relation to Ms Cherry."

The Edinburgh South West MP has been a prominent opponent of the Scottish Government’s Gender Recognition Act and has been one of the most outspoken critics of self-id proposals to allow transgender people to legally change their sex without the need for medical diagnosis.

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Ms Cherry told The Times: “It should not be possible for venues or their staff to no-platform lesbians or feminists who believe that sex is an immutable biological fact just because of our sexuality or our beliefs.

“That sort of discrimination is unlawful and I’m sure most people would agree it’s not acceptable.”

Before it was removed from the Fringe's website, the listing for Ms Cherry’s show - due to take place on August 10 - gave a potted biography of the KC and politician’s professional life as a leading lawyer and did not mention her views on gender.  

Ms Cherry told the paper that those in public life, including the arts, had a duty to protect freedom of expression from “the heckler’s veto”.

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She said: “The failure to do so and the actions of some political figures in fostering an intolerant and hateful climate where small groups of activists now decide who can speak and what can be discussed needs to be called out.

“What does it say about the Fringe and Edinburgh, the home of the enlightenment, when an elected Edinburgh politician can’t be asked questions on stage in the city they represent?”

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Roddy Dunlop KC, the Dean of the Faculty of Advocates took to Twitter to question the decision. “It’s plainly unlawful. Is the venue aware that they would be vulnerable to a discrimination claim?” he said. 

The top lawyer also pointed to the recent ruling that led to Glasgow’s Scottish Event Campus (SEC) being ordered to pay almost £100,000 in damages to a US evangelical preacher, Franklin Graham after it axed an event following concerns about his controversial views on gay rights, Islam and Donald Trump.

Last month, comedian Bethany Black, who is trans, cancelled a gig at The Stand in Glasgow because the Edinburgh venue was hosting Ms Cherry at the festival.

The comic said she did not want to ask the trans community to “fund their own oppression” by purchasing tickets for her show.

On Twitter, Ms Black said she had “a duty to my fans and my community not to ask them to help fund their own oppression.”

“I have always enjoyed playing Glasgow and playing The Stand has been a huge part of making me who I am as a comedian, so this is not a choice I make lightly and wish it wasn’t a choice I had to make at all.”

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The Stand was founded by one of Ms Cherry’s parliamentary colleagues, Tommy Sheppard. He stepped back from the day-to-day running of the club after his election in 2015, but is still a director of parent company, Salt N Sauce Promotions. 

He has previously spoken up for Ms Cherry. In 2021, when she came under fire for her views on trans legislation,  he said many people would think it extremely strange if she was removed from her frontbench roles in the party. 

He described her as “one of the SNP’s star performers, well respected across the house, who has distinguished herself at Westminster in her role.”

A spokesman for Fair Pley, the show's promoters, told The Herald: “We have been informed by The Stand, who run the New Town Theatre during the Fringe, that they are unable to provide adequate staffing for the In Conversation with… Joanna Cherry event on 10th August. 

"This is as a result of a number of The Stand’s staff raising issues in relation to Ms Cherry, though The Stand remain clear that they are not cancelling this event as a result of any views that Joanna may hold, rather that the event is unable to proceed on a properly staffed and safe basis. 

"Despite lengthy discussions with The Stand management, we have been unable to resolve these issues.

"We very much regret, therefore, that the event cannot proceed as planned, and apologise for any inconvenience this may have caused to those who have already purchased tickets.”

In a statement, The Stand said a number of "key operational staff, including venue management and box office personnel" were unwilling to work on this event.

"As we have previously stated, we will ensure that their views are respected.

"We will not compel our staff to work on this event and so have concluded that the event is unable to proceed on a properly staffed, safe and legally compliant basis. 

"We advised the show producers, Fair Pley Productions, of this operational issue and they advised Joanna Cherry that it is no longer possible to host the event in our venue."

In conversation events with Ms Cherry's Westminster colleagues, Mhairi Black and John Nicolson will go ahead as planned. So too will an event with independent MP Jeremy Corbyn.