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by Louise Wilson
26 July 2023
Calls for clarity over Labour gender reform policy


Calls for clarity over Labour gender reform policy

The Scottish Labour Party has been urged to clarify its policy regarding the reform of the Gender Recognition Act, after the UK party said it no longer supported self-identification.

Scottish Green equality spokesperson Maggie Chapman has written to Scottish Labour’s sole MP, Ian Murray, asking whether MPs would be “expected” to support retention of a medicalised process.

Scottish Conservative deputy leader Meghan Gallacher urged Anas Sarwar to break his "deafening silence" on the matter, asking him to "accept you were wrong" to support the Scottish Government's Gender Recognition Reform (GRR) Bill.

For Women Scotland, which campaigns against self-ID, has also written to Sarwar seeking confirmation of whether Scottish Labour’s policy will fall into line with the UK-wide party.

The letters follow Anneliese Dodds, the party’s shadow women and equalities minister, stating her party would retain the requirement for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria as part of the process of obtaining a gender recognition certificate.

Writing in The Guardian this week, Dodds accused the Scottish Government of taking a “cavalier” approach to reforming the process, after the Scottish Parliament passed the GRR Bill which would have stripped medical gatekeeping from the process and replace it with a system of self-ID.

This legislation was blocked by the UK Government earlier this year, with Scottish Secretary Alister Jack claiming it impacted on the UK-wide Equality Act.

The Scottish Government is seeking a judicial review of that move, which will be heard in court in September.

The Scottish Greens said the UK Government’s decision was “an attack on trans rights and on devolution”.

In her letter to Murray, Chapman asked whether a Labour government would continue to block the GRR Bill from becoming law.

She also asked: “Would Scottish Labour MPs support the self-identification principle, like the vast majority of your party’s MSPs did, or would they be expected to support the far more conservative and medicalised route advocated for by Annaliese Dodds?”

But the Scottish Conservatives, who largely voted against the bill, said UK Labour had accepted it had got this policy "badly wrong".

Writing to Sarwar, Gallacher said: "The question that women’s groups and the Scottish public as a whole want an answer to is this: do you, too, now accept you were wrong to support this flawed and dangerous bill?

"While several of your MSPs have reiterated their support for the GRR Bill in the wake of Anneliese Dodds’ article, so far the silence from you, as Scottish Labour leader, has been deafening."

For Women Scotland said in their letter to Sarwar they were “pleasantly surprised” by the UK party’s announcement.

They wrote: “Anneliese Dodds pointed to the clear lack of safeguarding for women and girls in the Scottish Government’s reform bill and now that these flaws are apparent, we wonder if Scottish Labour are in agreement with the wider UK party?

“With elections on the horizon, women would like to know where we stand with Labour, particularly in light of several contrary comments on social media from Labour MSPs.”

The UK party’s 2019 manifesto said that “Labour is committed to reforming the Gender Recognition Act 2004 to introduce self-declaration for transgender people”.

But leader Keir Starmer distanced himself from that commitment earlier this year.

Scottish Labour’s social justice spokesperson, Paul O’Kane, said earlier this week that his party “continues to support the de-medicalisation of the process in Scotland.”

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