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by Kirsteen Paterson
27 October 2022
MSPs to vote on gender recognition reforms

Demonstrators marching in Edinburgh in September

MSPs to vote on gender recognition reforms

MSPs will gather today for the first stage debate of the Scottish Government's planned gender recognition reforms.

The debate, and vote, will be held this afternoon and protesters are expected to gather outside the Scottish Parliament ahead of proceedings.

The Scottish Government says the proposed reforms represent only a minimal change in the law and speed up the legal process of changing gender, removing bureaucracy and cost. This includes removing the requirement for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria and lowering the minimum age from 18 to 16. Applicants will be required to swear an oath and making a false declaration will become a criminal offence.

However, women's groups opposed to the proposals have highlighted safeguarding concerns about the impact on women-only spaces and services and questions about the interaction of the laws with the Equality Act, as well as on how the making of a false declaration would be determined.

The UK's Equalities and Human Rights Commission has also called on ministers to pause the plan over potential "confusion" and cross-border issues.

Nicola Sturgeon has repeatedly defended the plans amidst criticism, saying that she does not believe "the rights of women and the rights of trans people need be in conflict".

The proposals were shelved by the SNP before the last Scottish Parliament election and have been the subject of fierce debate within the party.

That debate has also taken place more generally, with a number of public protests and events held by both supporters and critics of the planned reforms.

However, the government is expected to win today's vote. The Conservatives will have a free vote on the matter, but other parties are understood to have been whipped to vote in favour of the change, with the threat of disciplinary action if they do not.

More than 30,000 responses were submitted to two consultations on the matter, including many sent from outwith Scotland. In the second, a "small minority" of organisations were found to be broadly in favour of the move to the proposed system, while around four in ten were not and the remainder (one in ten) did not take a clear stance.

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