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by Kirsteen Paterson
11 April 2022
First Minister asked to refer Lorna Slater amid claims trans comments 'breach Ministerial Code'

Lorna Slater entered government in a deal between the SNP and the Scottish Greens

First Minister asked to refer Lorna Slater amid claims trans comments 'breach Ministerial Code'

The request follows strong reaction to a weekend interview

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has been asked to trigger an inquiry after Green minister Lorna Slater compared critics of planned gender recognition rules to racists.

In an interview with the Herald on Sunday, Slater, the Scottish Government's Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity, also drew parallels with antisemitism and claimed "certain right-wing American groups" are funding opposition to the changes.

Slater, who became one of Scotland's two Green ministers in a post-election deal with the SNP, also said she is "genuinely afraid" for the safety of transgender candidates standing for her party in the upcoming local government elections. 

While there was backing for her comments from supports of reform, the SNP's Joanna Cherry said "Scotland deserves better than this" and Tory MSP Brian Whittle called for Slater to be removed from her post, saying: "There should be no place in government for this kind of radical extremism."

It is understood that at least two letters have been written to the First Minister asking her to act on the matter. 

Meghan Gallacher MSP, the Scottish Conservatives' spokesperson for gender reform, said she has asked Nicola Sturgeon to "distance herself and her government" from the comments. Gallacher says these "arguably" amount to a breach of the Ministerial Code and "ought to be investigated".

Meanwhile, Alba Party chair Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh has asked Sturgeon to "refer this potential breach to the independent advisers on the Ministerial Code who provide you with the advice on which to base your judgement about any action required".

The Scottish Government's planned reform of the Gender Recognition Act would reduce the time a person has to live in their acquired gender from two years to three months, followed by another three-month reflection period. It would also remove the need for medical diagnosis and reduce the age at which such applications can be made to 16, with additional safeguards in place for this age group.

While supporters say this will provide a fairer system for trans people and improve their welfare, opponents say a switch to self-ID could introduce challenges over the provision of single-sex spaces, as protected under the Equality Act, and may create risks for the safety of women and girls.

Slater told the Herald on Sunday the Gender Reform Act will pass and said criticism had been "absolutely heartbreaking" and "hideous". Of her safety fears for Greens election candidates, she said the "gentle, hardworking women are being portrayed as if they’re inherently dangerous. It couldn’t be further from the truth". 

A spokesperson for the Scottish Greens told Holyrood that there are measures in place around this, stating: "Every branch has a welfare officer and part of their role at the moment is supporting candidates, particularly trans candidates and others who might be more vulnerable to abuse during the campaign. The Rainbow Greens network also provides solidarity among LGBTQ+ candidates who are particularly vulnerable."

On media coverage of issues around sex and gender, Slater dismissed the need for balanced debate, saying: "We wouldn’t put balance on the question of racism or antisemitism, but we allow this fictional notion of balance when it comes to anti-trans. The whole thing is disgusting."

The Scottish Government said it is "committed" to changes that will "improve and simplify the process for a trans person to gain legal recognition", adding: "The aim of this government is to ensure that trans people in Scotland enjoy equality and feel safe and accepted for who they are.

"We appreciate the range of strongly held views on the Gender Recognition Act and have always been keen to seek consensus where possible and to work to support respectful debate."

In her letter, Ahmed-Sheikh said: "As a woman of colour, who has been subjected to racism throughout my entire life, I find it abhorrent that Ms Slater believes those of us that do not support your legislative agenda, and wish to defend the sex-based rights of women, are ourselves somehow akin to racists or antisemites."

Gallacher said: “The GRA is an extremely sensitive issue that evokes strong passions on both sides of the debate. That’s why it’s imperative that Scottish Government ministers discuss it in a measured, tolerant way."

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