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by Kirsteen Paterson
20 December 2023
Alex Salmond: Gender reforms 'worst legislation in the history of devolution'

Alex Salmond | Alamy

Alex Salmond: Gender reforms 'worst legislation in the history of devolution'

The Scottish Government's Gender Recognition Reform (GRR) Bill was the "worst legislation in the history of devolution", Alex Salmond has said.

The ex-first minister has called on his former party to "reflect" on its priorities and said Holyrood ministers were "outmanoeuvred" by Scottish Secretary Alister Jack.

The bill, which sought to introduce a system of self-identification for transgender people,  was blocked by the UK Government on the basis that it would interfere with UK-wide equalities law. 

The Scottish Government took the matter to the Court of Session, where judge Lady Haldane ruled that the veto was not unlawful.

A ministerial statement on the matter is expected this afternoon and Deputy First Minister Shona Robison is expected to tell the chamber that the Scottish Government will not appeal the judgment.

She told the BBC that reforms to healthcare for transgender patients will now be examined and said debate around the bill had been "polarising".

Ahead of the statement, Alba Party leader Salmond said: "Self-identification was the worst legislation in the history of devolution. It divided the country, weakened the political process and alienated much of the women's movement from their own parliament.

"Now that Scottish Government ministers have been comprehensively outmanoeuvred by Alister Jack and ridiculed in defence of the indefensible, they might reflect that a renewed focus on self-determination for fuel-poor Scots in energy-rich Scotland might be a better way forward for 2024."

Speaking to the BBC, Robison said the government had been "trying to make the lives of trans people just that bit better".

The GRR Bill was blocked by Jack in the first-ever use of Section 35 veto powers enshrined in the Scotland Act.

The Scottish Government said the move was an attack on devolution and campaign groups expressed disappointment at Lady Haldane's ruling.

Scottish Greens equality spokesperson Maggie Chapman called the court's decision "a devastating day for equality" and a "democratic outrage". She said: "It makes a mockery of any vote or decision that we as parliamentarians take at Holyrood from now on, if the result is knowing that Westminster will veto anything they don't like."

However, giving evidence to MPs on the Scottish Affairs Committee, Jack said Section 35 was not an "unfettered power" and he saw nothing in upcoming legislation which would require the governments to "go to court again".

Speaking to Good Morning Scotland, Robison restated her government's commitment to improving life for trans people, saying: "We are where we are and what we are determined to do is to look at the other areas of life, the healthcare system for example. That's the number one ask from the trans community, to make that better for them, and those are the areas we will focus on."

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