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by Kirsteen Paterson
20 December 2022
Gender recognition reform: Crunch vote after Shona Robison warns MSPs over amendments

Demonstrations are expected outside the Scottish Parliament

Gender recognition reform: Crunch vote after Shona Robison warns MSPs over amendments

Members of the Scottish Parliament will today vote on their final changes to long-debated gender recognition reforms.

It has been six years since the Scottish Government announced its intention to overhaul rules relating to transgender people.

It aims to make it easier and faster for trans people to change their legally recognised gender, bringing in a system of self-identification and allowing 16 and 17-year-olds to acquire a gender recognition certificate (GRC).

Changes in the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill also end the need for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria to gain the certification and reduces the amount of time a person must spend living as their acquired gender before application from two years to three months.

Supporters of the measures argue the measures will improve life for trans people, amount to a small, administrative shift and will not affect the rights of women and girls.

However, opponents say that the proposals lack sufficient safeguarding to prevent abuse of the system and make it harder to ensure women-only services and spaces are maintained for women and girls.

Today MSPs meet to vote on around 150 amendments to the government bill, including some which could derail the legislation entirely, according to Shona Robison.

The social justice secretary has written to three MSPs - Jackie Baillie of Labour, Russell Findlay of the Conservatives and Michelle Thomson of the SNP - asking them to withdraw amendments she claims would put the bill at "serious risk" of being outwith the competence of the Scottish Parliament. The UK Government has already warned that it may challenge the bill if it passes. 

The three have put forwards amendments which aim to provide additional safeguards in relation to GRC applications by sex offenders.

Robison said ministers will have to delay the final vote on the legislation if the amendments are passed and may be at odds with EU human rights laws. She wrote: "For anyone who wants the reforms in this bill to pass, after six years of consideration and consultation, a further delay of this type would be extremely unwelcome."

Stage three considerations of the bill take place this afternoon and are expected to run into the evening, with final voting to take place tomorrow.

Demonstrations by both supporters and opponents of the bill are expected to take place outside the parliament, which has been the scene of many similar gatherings in recent months. 

In a last-minute evidence session on Monday night, UN special rapporteur on violence against women, Reem Alsalem, told members of the cross-party equalities committee that the legislation should be paused.

She said issues including the effects on the Equality Act, which allows the maintenance of single-sex spaces, should be dealt with and "violent males who can take advantage of any loopholes will do so in order to get into women's spaces and have access to women".

However, Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the UN's independent expert on gender identity, said there is "no evidence" that the retention of the current system would be an effective safeguard against violent men.

Meanwhile, an amendment from Labour MSP Pam Duncan-Glancy contends that the bill does not affect the Equality Act.

Rachael Hamilton, equalities spokeswoman for the Scottish Conservatives, has accused the SNP of trying to rush the bill through before Christmas "without proper scrutiny".

However, the Scottish Greens, who want the bill to pass unchanged, have called it "the most scrutinised bill in the history of the Scottish Parliament".

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