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by Louise Wilson
04 May 2023
Gender reforms: UK Government will ‘robustly defend’ block on Scottish Government bill

Gender reforms: UK Government will ‘robustly defend’ block on Scottish Government bill

The UK Government has confirmed it will contest the Scottish Government’s legal action over the block on the Gender Recognition Reform Bill.

Social justice secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville announced last month the government would lodge a petition for judicial review of the section 35 order.

The order was laid by Scottish secretary Alister Jack in January, preventing the bill from being submitted for Royal assent, citing concerns about its impact on the operation of the Equalities Act.

The case will be considered by the Court of Session.

A UK Government spokesperson said: “The UK Government will robustly defend the Secretary of State’s decision to prevent the Scottish Government's Gender Recognition Reform Bill from becoming law.

“We are clear that the proposed legislation would have an adverse effect on reserved matters, including on the operation of the law as it applies to Great Britain-wide equalities protections.”

The bill was passed by Holyrood in December by a margin of 86 votes to 39, though the SNP suffered its biggest rebellion ever as nine members voted against it.

It aims to make the process of obtaining a gender recognition certificate easier for trans people, but concerns have been raised on the impact on women and single-sex spaces.

Speaking shortly after FMQs, First Minister Humza Yousaf reiterated his stance that his government was “not prepared to accept a Westminster veto on legislation passed by a majority” in the Scottish Parliament.

Earlier this year, Jack confirmed he would prevent the legislation from becoming law because the bill would have “serious, adverse effects” on the 2010 Equality Act.

Somerville said the UK Government has not provided “sufficient justification” for the decision, nor was it in line with the memorandum of understanding between the UK and devolved governments.

The Court of Session will now decide whether to grant the Scottish Government permission to proceed, and both sides will then set out their arguments.

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