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by Staff reporter
20 January 2023
Joanna Cherry: Gender Recognition Reform Bill would 'face legal challenge' in independent Scotland

Joanna Cherry MP

Joanna Cherry: Gender Recognition Reform Bill would 'face legal challenge' in independent Scotland

The Scottish Government's Gender Recognition Reform (GRR) Bill "would be facing a legal challenge" in an independent Scotland, Joanna Cherry MP has claimed.

The SNP politician and KC claims "concerns about its impact on equality law and human rights" would see the bill facing legal questions even outwith the Union.

The claim is based on a transitional constitution published in a Scottish Government white paper in 2014. It sought to enshrine the protections of the Equality Act and European Convention on Human Rights in the foundations of a sovereign Scottish state.

Writing in The National, the Edinburgh South West MP says the bill "could impact on the rights of women" and lesbian, gay and bisexual people while assisting transgender people.

And she argues that it is "naive" to claim that a Labour amendment stating the GRR Bill does not affect the Equality Act has legal effect, writing: "You could pass a bill saying the sky was green but that wouldn't change the fact that it is blue."

Passed with cross-party backing, the GRR Bill has been blocked by the UK Government using a Section 35 order, under the terms of the Scotland Act. It says this is because it impacts on the Equality Act and has offered to work with Scottish ministers to make changes.

However, the Scottish Government says the bill is competent and has condemned the veto, asking Westminster to withdraw it

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said the Scottish Government will take the matter to court. 

Calling for the "problems" the bill creates to be "addressed in Scotland" through parliament or court, Cherry says it "doesn't really make sense" to describe the veto as "an attack on devolution," as has been argued by some.

She said: "It is of the essence of devolution that the devolved parliament is subservient to the UK Parliament, that's why we has nationalists want independence.

"In an independent Scotland the passing of the bill by a parliamentary majority would not necessarily have guaranteed that it would have become law without further challenge.

"If we were an independent country with a written constitution, I predict this bill would be facing a legal challenge based on the concerns about its impact on equality law and human rights."

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