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by Margaret Taylor
16 August 2023
Case on UK Government's gender reform block to go ahead next month

Case on UK Government's gender reform block to go ahead next month

A judicial review of the UK Government’s block on gender reform legislation will go ahead next month following a hearing at the Court of Session this morning.

The case was launched by Scottish ministers in April after Scottish Secretary Alister Jack used a Section 35 order to prevent the Gender Recognition Reform Act, which was passed by Holyrood at the end of last year, from becoming law.

During a 20-minute hearing before Lady Haldane this morning, the parties agreed to lodge their cases by 11 September ahead of a three-day hearing that will begin on 19 September.

Today’s hearing should have been live-streamed but was not available to watch online due to “technical difficulties”. The Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service said it is “working to resolve any issues for future hearings”.

The Scottish Government’s case centres on the claim that Jack was incorrect in law to use Section 35 of the Scotland Act to block the legislation.

Social Justice Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said in April that the Section 35 order was "an unprecedented challenge to the Scottish Parliament's ability to legislate on clearly devolved matters" and "risks setting a dangerous constitutional precedent".

Earlier this month, the Holyrood administration attempted to have the case delayed, arguing that it should not be heard until the outcome of a separate matter that centres on the legal definition of ‘woman’ is known.

That case, which will be heard in October, is an appeal of an earlier ruling from Lady Haldane that found the definition of sex is "not limited to biological or birth sex".

The ruling related specifically to the Gender Representation on Public Boards Act, which is designed to increase the numbers of women on public boards in Scotland, but feminist organisation For Women Scotland – which lodged the appeal – believes its scope is wider.

Addressing the court at the beginning of August the Scottish Government’s legal representative, advocate Paul Reid, argued that the outcome of the appeal could have ramifications for the judicial review, but Lady Haldane disagreed.

"I do not accept that the issues in the For Women Scotland case and the issues in the motion brought by the petitioners are the same,” she said.

"In the event that For Women Scotland is successful in the Inner House, further submissions on the case can be made for whatever they see is appropriate."

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