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by Louise Wilson
08 December 2023
Humza Yousaf: Gender reform ruling a ‘dark day for devolution’

Humza Yousaf decided to challenge the section 35 days after becoming first minister | Alamy

Humza Yousaf: Gender reform ruling a ‘dark day for devolution’

The court ruling in favour of the UK Government’s block to the Gender Recognition Reform Bill has proven devolution is “fundamentally flawed”, the First Minister has said.

Describing it as a “dark day for devolution”, Humza Yousaf said Scottish independence is the only way to guarantee laws passed in the Scottish Parliament become statute.

The Court of Session ruled earlier today that the UK Government’s use of a Section 35 Order to prevent the bill becoming law was appropriate.

The Scottish Government had taken the UK Government to court on the matter, arguing that Section 35 had been used purely because the latter did not agree with the policy.

The UK Government had said the legislation would interfere with the Equality Act, a reserved piece of legislation, and therefore went beyond the powers of the Scottish Parliament.

Yousaf said his government would take time to consider the ruling before deciding its next move. It could appeal to a higher court.

The First Minister said: “Today's judgment confirms beyond doubt that devolution is fundamentally flawed. The court has confirmed that legislation passed by a majority in Holyrood can be struck down by Westminster.

“The only way to guarantee we get true self-government is through independence.

“This is a dark day for devolution. Sovereignty should lie with the people of Scotland, not a Westminster government we didn't vote for with the ability to overrule our laws.”

The contentious bill was designed to make it easier for trans people to obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) by allowing them to self-identify in their chosen gender.

It sought to reform the UK-wide Gender Recognition Act, which remains in place. This process requires a panel of legal and medical professionals to verify whether an applicant is eligible for a GRC or not.

The bill passed in December last year with the support of a majority of MSPs, but was vetoed a month later by Scottish Secretary Alister Jackson, who said there would be “consequences for the operation of GB-wide equalities protections and other reserved matters”.

The Scottish Greens, Yousaf’s partners in government who also back the bill, said the ruling was a “democratic outrage” and “devastating” for equality.

The party’s equalities spokesperson Maggie Chapman said: “This is a devastating day for equality. It is a democratic outrage, crushing basic rights and equality for some of Scotland’s most marginalised people. It shows the huge limitations and constraints on devolution and confirms that the UK Government refuses to see our trans siblings for the people they really are.

“It is horrible, it is heartbreaking and it is unjust. It makes a mockery of any vote or decision that we as parliamentarians take at Holyrood from now on, if the result is knowing that Westminster will veto anything they don’t like.”

Jack earlier welcomed the judgment and urged Scottish ministers to let the matter lie and not take further legal action.

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