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The National (Scotland)
The National (Scotland)
Abbi Garton-Crosbie

'It's going to be hell': Green MSP raises fears of impact of gender reform block

A SCOTTISH Greens MSP has raised concerns that the growing "toxic" row over the UK Government blocking Scotland’s gender reforms will be “hell” for transgender Scots.

On Monday night, Scottish Secretary Alister Jack announced that the Westminster Tories would deploy a never before used section 35 order to stop the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill from being given Royal Assent.

The move caused fury amongst those who saw it as an attack on Scottish devolution. on Tuesday Social Justice Secretary Shona Robison, who sponsored the bill as it moved through Parliament, told MSPs the UK Government intervened simply because they “don’t like” the legislation.

Maggie Chapman MSP, the Scottish Greens equalities spokesperson, agreed. Scotland has its own policies on nuclear power although energy policy is a reserved matter, and the UK has done nothing to intervene, she recalled.

“They are doing this because it's about trans people, because it's on an equalities issue and about a minority group, that is despicable,” she said.

Speaking in her parliamentary office shortly after Jack had laid the Section 35 order in the House of Commons, Chapman fumed that the Scottish Secretary couldn’t articulate the UK Government’s reasoning for why the gender reforms allegedly impact women’s rights, as has repeatedly been claimed by opponents of the legislation.

She said: “He couldn't do it. He was asked specifically by Scottish MPs what the issue was, and he couldn't answer. He couldn't answer that question."

Chapman added: “I suppose that the concern that I have around this issue more broadly is that because it has become so toxic, and it's become so awful for trans people.

The National: A supporter of the gender reforms outside of the Scottish ParliamentA supporter of the gender reforms outside of the Scottish Parliament (Image: NQ staff)

"Actually using a Section 35 rather than a Section 33, which would take it straight to the Supreme Court, I think the UK Government has done that because that prolongs it even further.

“That's just really shitty for trans people.

“That’s a really awful thing to do to trans people, because you are saying actually, we are going to use the mechanism that will draw this out for the longest possible time, and it will be trans people who will suffer.”

“My heart goes out to trans people and trans allies and friends and family affected because it's going to be hell,” Chapman added.

Last week, opponents of the gender reforms gathered outside of the Scottish Parliament to protest the bill passing, with counter-protesters and activists also trying to make their voices heard.

It escalated to an incident where one opponent of the reforms accused supporters of being “paedophiles”. Chapman said she has fears that the UK Government’s decision will legitimatise this kind of behaviour against the LGBT community.

The MSP said that while she expects abuse as a politician, it’s “inappropriate” for the same abuse to be levelled at trans people.

During the three long days of debate at the last stage of the reforms, Tory MSPs used numerous delaying tactics to push it into the long grass. They called multiple points of order, moved amendments that Labour MSPs had dropped, and tried to have the parliamentary timetable changed to push the bill into 2023.

Reflecting on this, Chapman likened the strategy to opposition MPs in Westminster. She added that the tactics and response from the UK Government and Labour leader Keir Starmer over the reforms will reaffirm for many that “Westminster doesn’t understand Scotland”.

She added: “That's not good for the Union.

“I remember after the 2014 independence referendum there were all sorts of warm, positive statements from Labour and the Conservatives saying that Scotland should stay part of the Union and lead the Union.

“What happens when we try to lead the Union on equalities issues?

“The right-wing, reactionary, Conservative government turns round and says, ‘No, you can’t.”

However, the Scottish Greens MSP believes the move will backfire on the Tories, and voters will see the attempt to stoke a "culture war" as the "bad faith tactic" that it is. 

She added: “It’s a very clear marker of a growing distinctiveness in our political cultures, and in our valuing of difference and diversity and equalities issues.

“More than two-thirds of Scottish parliamentarians supported this reform, if we are the same culture, if we are the same country, why isn't that reflected in Westminster?

“Because it’s not and we’re not.”

Asked if she was confident that a showdown between the Scottish and UK Government over the reforms in the court would result in a ruling in Holyrood’s favour, she said: “I am hopeful.”

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