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by Louise Wilson
23 February 2023
Next First Minister to make decision on gender reform block challenge

Next First Minister to make decision on gender reform block challenge

A legal challenge to the UK Government’s block on Scottish gender reforms is not expected before Nicola Sturgeon leaves office, her spokesman has indicated.

The Scottish Government has until mid-April to apply for a judicial review, meaning the decision will need to be made promptly by Sturgeon’s successor.

Her office also confirmed that while work on previous policy announcements continues, there will be no new papers on Scottish independence until after the new First Minister takes office.

Sturgeon is expected to continue with official engagements until she leaves the role at the end of next month.

She announced her intention to resign as First Minister and SNP leader last week, once a successor is chosen.

The leadership race is now well underway, with health secretary Humza Yousaf, finance secretary Kate Forbes and former justice minister Ash Regan expected to make it onto the ballot paper for SNP members.

The three contenders differ in their stances on the Gender Recognition Reform Bill, which would introduce a system of self-identification for trans people seeking to legally change their gender via a gender recognition certificate.

The bill was blocked by Scottish secretary Alister Jack last month, who claimed it would have a negative impact on the operation of the Equality Act, a piece of reserved legislation.

Sturgeon said her government intended to challenge that section 35 order in court – but her official spokesperson told journalists on Monday: “I’m not giving you any indication that there’s anything imminent on that.”

Yousaf has said he intended to push ahead with Sturgeon’s plan to challenge the order.

However, Forbes and Regan – who have both expressed concerns about the bill – take a different approach.

Regan, who voted against the bill and resigned as a government minister to do so, said she “would not be progressing the GRR Bill” because she “wouldn’t want it to take up any more time”.

Forbes – who is currently on maternity leave and was not present to cast a vote on the bill – said she had “significant concerns” about self-identification and that she would be “loathe to challenge” the UK Government on it.

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