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by Ruaraidh Gilmour
22 December 2022
Gender reform: UK Government could block Scottish Parliament bill

Alister Jack

Gender reform: UK Government could block Scottish Parliament bill

Scottish Secretary Alistair Jack has said the UK Government has “concerns” about the newly passed Gender Recognition Reform (GRR) Bill and could seek to prevent it receiving royal assent.

Jack said the UK Government could look to use a Section 35 order “if necessary” to stop the bill becoming law.

MSPs voted 86 to 39 in favour of the bill at Holyrood earlier.

But shortly after the result was announced, Jack said the UK Government would “look closely” at the ramifications of the bill on the 2010 Equality Act along with other UK-wide legislation. 

The bill, which will make it easier for people to obtain a gender recognition certificate (GRC), was heavily scrutinised, and some feared its passing could make it easier for male abusers posing as women to enter single-sex spaces, gaining access to vulnerable women and girls.  

There has also been concerns that the new legislation could conflict with the 2010 Equality Act, but social justice secretary Shona Robison said it will not change any exemptions permitted under the act, meaning trans women would not be able to access female-only spaces “if that’s proportionate”. 

Jack said: “We share the concerns that many people have regarding certain aspects of this bill, and in particular the safety issues for women and children. 

“We will look closely at that, and also the ramifications for the 2010 Equality Act and other UK-wide legislation, in the coming weeks - up to and including a Section 35 order stopping the bill going for royal assent if necessary.”

MSPs voted 86 to 39 in favour of the bill following two days of debate that saw parliament sit late into the night to allow members to work their way through 154 amendments.

There were nine SNP rebels who voted against the party whip and against the bill.

Earlier in the day Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross challenged First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on the legislation.

“The First Minister's own vote means that a man standing trial for rape can claim they're a woman and force a victim to call them she. Why did the First Minister vote for this?” Ross asked.

In response, Sturgeon said the bill would not make a difference to how predatory men access women’s spaces.

She said: “My argument is not, and it has never been and never will be, that these are not very real ways in which predatory men abuse women. My argument is that none of these ways are created by this bill and nor would it be the case that any of these ways are addressed by denying rights to trans people.”

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