Equalities minister Kemi Badenoch joins Alister Jack in refusing to discuss gender reform in Holyrood
UK equalities minister Kemi Badenoch has followed the lead of Scottish secretary Alister Jack in declining an invite to appear before Holyrood’s Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee.
Last week Jack, who has invoked Section 35 of the Scotland Act to block the passing of Holyrood’s Gender Recognition Reform Bill (GRR), was invited to appear before the committee to "give further clarity" on that decision. He declined, saying Badenoch would be the more appropriate choice.
Today, however, Badenoch has also declined to appear before the committee, which is due to meet tomorrow.
Committee convener Joe FitzPatrick said he was “bitterly disappointed” by the news, adding that committee members had “hoped to better understand the reasons for the issuing of a Section 35 Order in relation to the Gender Recognition Reform Bill”.
“The committee will consider its next steps at its meeting," he said.
Speaking at a press conference held earlier today First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said by refusing to appear both Jack and Badenoch were displaying an “absence of confidence in their own position”.
SNP MSP Emma Roddick accused the UK ministers of snubbing Holyrood, adding that it was a “disgraceful insult to the Scottish Parliament”.
“All Tory talk of compromise is entirely disingenuous,” she said. “This is a purely political decision and an illustration of the contempt they hold for Scottish democracy.
“As much as the Tories hate it, devolution is not about what Westminster thinks is acceptable, it is about the right of the Scottish Parliament to pass laws that best meet the needs of the people who live here.
“Westminster's actions should be of huge concern to anyone who supports Scotland’s right to make decisions on devolved matters. Democracy must be protected.”
The GRR was passed by MSPs in December following a marathon debating session that saw members sit late into the night on two occasions.
As soon as the legislation was agreed the UK Government indicated it might take steps to prevent it passing into law over fears it would impact on the UK-wide Equality Act, legislation that Holyrood has no powers to amend.
Jack announced the Section 35 move last week, which essentially enables the UK Government to prevent Scottish legislation from receiving royal assent.
Sturgeon last week accused Jack of acting like a "governor general" and launching a "full-frontal attack" on Scottish democracy, while social justice secretary Shona Robison, who led the bill through parliament, said the Scottish secretary made no attempt to voice concerns about the bill during its long journey through parliament.
A Scotland Office source said Sturgeon's comments amounted to a "cheap personal attack" while the UK Government has insisted it "raised a number of concerns" about the bill before it was passed.