Gender row kicks off in Scotland over book trust's new code of conduct

Inclusion on the register is vital for writers, poets and spoken-word artists who are hoping to gain a living from public events

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Writers in Scotland have voiced concern over a new code of conduct imposed by a national book charity that may infringe on the free speech of poets and authors who do not agree with "gender identity theory".

The Scottish Book Trust sent the code to 600 writers on its Live Literature Register, warning creators they will lose their listing if they do not comply with the regulations.

Inclusion on the register is vital for writers, poets and spoken-word artists who are hoping to gain a living from public events in schools and libraries.

Poet Magi Gibson, who has signed up to the code, has admitted that she is "deeply troubled" by the new version.

Authors in Scotland have been left disappointed with the new code.
Authors in Scotland have been left disappointed with the new code.

In a letter to Marc Gibson, the chief executive of the trust, she argues the code “states you will not tolerate bigotry and transphobia. Certainly in the mode in which these terms were used many years ago I would have agreed.

“This is not many years ago, and you are using these terms as if there is still a safe, neutral application.

"Yet both these terms are weaponised day in, day out, not to achieve fairness and equality but simply to damage someone — usually a woman — who has legitimate beliefs protected under the Equality Act 2010.”

The Scottish Book Trust is a charity that promotes literature, reading and writing. Critics fear the body is towing the line of the Scottish government, with 86 percent of its funding coming from them.

In a letter seen by The Times, Ms Gibson says she fears the code “discriminates against those writers, especially women, lesbians and gay men, who do not believe in gender identity theory.”

She said: “I fear this code... is an infringement on the free speech of authors and poets in Scotland, and inadvertently provides to bad-faith actors a licence to harass writers who may be deemed to have breached it.”

The trust declined to divulge who is on their equality, diversity and inclusion advisory group, which works on making sure “that our principles are more proactively embedded in all aspects of our work”.

A writer's behaviour is often "down to the individual" but if they the group is “presented with... evidence of serious public misconduct, it reserves the right to address that misconduct”.