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by Kirsteen Paterson
16 January 2023
Keir Starmer: Scotland's transgender reforms are 'UK-wide issue'

Keir Starmer: Scotland's transgender reforms are 'UK-wide issue'

Keir Starmer has said he is "worried" that reforms to gender recognition rules are being used by the SNP and UK Government as a "political football" in a radio exchange with a Scottish trans woman.

When asked if he would support a UK Government move to block the legislation, the Labour leader answered: "Well, let's see."

The caller, identified as Amber, rang into LBC to ask Starmer about his stance on the Gender Recognition Reform Bill.

In a Sunday interview he had told the BBC's Laura Kuenssberg he has "concerns" over the potential implications of the Scottish Government reforms – which were passed before Christmas – on the UK-wide Equalities Act.

The bill also reduces the age threshold for legal transition from 18 to 16, which Starmer said is too young.

Amber told Starmer she was "surprised" by his comments, asking: "Literally every member of Scottish Labour voted for it. What do you say to all the Scottish Labour MSPs who voted for this bill?"

The MP answered: "It's a matter for Scotland and for Scottish Labour, but it now it is becoming a UK-wide issue because the question now is whether or not the government should take action to interfere with the usual royal assent. So it's now moved on from a from a purely Scottish issue into a UK-wide issue, and that's why it's very important I made my position clear."

Starmer said he thinks the laws around gender recognition should be "modernised", but is "worried" that "this is being used by the SNP as a sort of devolution political football".

It has been suggested that the UK Government may seek to block the legislation. Starmer said this too could see the issue viewed as a "divisive football", stating: "On this whole issue of trans rights, I think the government is looking to divide people rather than bring people together."

Asked by host Nick Ferrari if he would back the UK Government in a block to the GRR Bill, Starmer answered: "Well let's see. They're being very careful in what they're saying."

Starmer went on: "It would be the first time a revision passed in Scotland had ever been blocked. That is a big step for a government to take.

"I will wait and see what they do and the reasons they say they're doing it, but I do not want this to be just another political football."

Maggie Chapman, Scottish Greens equalities spokesperson, said: "Any attempt to overrule this decision, or to refuse to recognise Gender Recognition Certificates from Scotland, would set a terrible precedent and send an awful message to our trans siblings here in Scotland and around the world. 

"At every step of this debate the UK Government has been happy to fan the flames of prejudice. It has spread the most vicious smears and disinformation in order to detract from its many shocking failings. 

"But this would be a disgraceful new low. It would be a shocking attack on trans rights and democracy. It would totally undermine devolution and all of Downing Street’s rhetoric and claims about us supposedly being better together and part of a union of equals.

"This was one of the most scrutinised Bills in the history of the Scottish Parliament.

"The UK government rightly recognises gender recognition certificates from other countries - if they have any integrity they should end the scaremongering and agree to honour those that are issued in Scotland."

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