Sturgeon accused of ‘politicising’ trans rights and stirring ‘outrage’

Nicola Sturgeon slammed by Scottish Conservatives

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Nicola Sturgeon has been skewered for “politicising” trans rights and stirring up “constitutional outrage”, as the row over Scotland’s Gender Recognition Act continues to escalate. The Government has blocked a new law intended to allow trans people in Scotland to change their legal gender without a medical diagnosis. Speaking about the decision in the House of Commons today, Secretary of State for Scotland Alistair Jack told MPs that he did not take it “lightly”.

He said, after looking “closely at the potential impact of the Bill”, the Government decided it would have a “serious adverse impact” on the operation of the Equality Act 2010.

Mr Jack said the adverse impacts would “include impacts on the operation of single-sex clubs, associations and schools and protections, such as equal pay.”

He added: “My decision today is about the legislation’s consequences for the operation of GB-wide equalities protections and other reserved matters.”

But First Minister Nicola Sturgeon called the intervention “a full-frontal attack on our democratically elected Scottish Parliament and its ability to make its own decisions on devolved matters”.

While Mr Jack acknowledged that the decision the block the legislation is a “significant” one, he hit back at the allegations, saying: “I would like to address the claims put forward by those who would seek to politicise this decision and claim that this is some kind of constitutional outrage.”

He told the House of Commons that “the powers in Section 35 of the Scotland Act are not new and this Government has not created them.”

The Scottish Secretary added: “They have existed as long as devolution itself”.

The aim of the legislation is to make it easier for trans people to change their legal gender and get a gender recognition certificate (GRC), which is seen as an integral part of trans inclusion.

Westminster’s decision to block the bill from going for royal assent is the first time Section 35 has been used.

It represents a significant escalation of tensions between Scotland and Westminster and has caused the issue of trans rights to become a lynchpin in the argument over devolution.

Ms Sturgeon has said the Scottish Government is likely to mount a legal challenge in response, saying the use of section 35 would create a “very, very slippery slope indeed”, suggesting it could be used by the UK Government over other issues.

Scottish Trans has said the current requirements for applying for a Gender Recognition Certificate are overly laborious, saying: “The time, evidence, and money required, as well as the emotional toll of potentially having an application rejected, mean that many trans people do not apply – even those who have otherwise ‘completed’ every other aspect of their transition.”

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It adds: “This is very frustrating for many trans men and women who find that this slow, bureaucratic process is preventing them from otherwise just getting on with their lives.

“Many trans people know they are trans a long time before they socially, medically, and legally transition, and do not make the choice to do so lightly.

“Requiring at least two years of evidence is then an excessively long and arbitrary amount of time to ensure that someone is certain they want to change their legal sex, especially as they also have to make a statutory declaration as part of the process.”

But critics say the law undermines sexual equality and poses a risk to women’s safety.

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