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MSPs intervene in row over university screening of gender-critical Adult Human Female documentary

The University of Edinburgh

MSPs intervene in row over university screening of gender-critical Adult Human Female documentary

MSPs have written to the University of Edinburgh after the screening of a documentary was blocked for the second time.

Ticket holders were prevented from viewing the film Adult Human Female at a lecture hall on Wednesday after protesters sat in front of the entrance to the venue.

It is the second time a screening of the film, which focuses on issues around women's rights and transgender rights and is freely available on YouTube, has been blocked by critics amidst complaints from some staff and student groups that its material includes an "attack on trans people's identities".

Its makers deny that it features hateful content and, in a statement, said the screening should go ahead because "universities must be a place where disagreements can be discussed and different ideas help up to scrutiny".

A spokesperson for the University of Edinburgh said it is "disappointed that again this event has not been able to go ahead", stating: "In line with our commitment to fostering an inclusive, supportive and safe environment for our whole community, we worked with the organisers and put measures in place to mitigate risks associated with the event.

"However, with protesters restricting access to the venue, safety concerns were raised should the event proceed. It was therefore decided that the screening should not continue."

The event was organised by the Edinburgh Academics for Academic Freedom group, which said the disruption was caused by "censorious bullies".

However, the university's Staff Pride Network, which organised a protest outside the lecture, said its actions were "non-confrontational" and the doors were blocked by students.

The issue has provoked comment from politicians, with Conservative MSP Jeremy Balfour today declaring his intention to intervene.

He said: "I am writing to the university today seeking clarification and making sure the event will go ahead. Freedom of speech needs to be defended."

His party colleague Pam Gosal, who sits on the Scottish Parliament's Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee, also commented, calling the cancellation of the screening "extremely disappointing" and "a continued erosion of academic freedom and the exchange of ideas", while SNP MP Joanna Cherry labelled it "an absolute disgrace".

Meanwhile, Tory MSP Tess White has also written to the university, saying the censorship was "shameful". 

She tweeted: "The censorship of free speech at Edinburgh University last night was shameful. I have written to the Provost – again – to address what happened."

White also raised the issue at First Minister's Questions, asking Humza Yousaf: "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 that the event can take place?"

Yousaf said he agreed with White about "the importance of freedom of speech, more so in our educational institutions", which he said should be a "safe space" for "robust" discussions. 

The first minister said he had not seen the film and did not know its contents. He said he was "unequivocal" in his support for trans rights, and the matter was one for the university.

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