Nicola Sturgeon: Trans rights do not diminish my rights as a woman
Nicola Sturgeon has pledged to defend equal rights "for as long as there is a breath in [her] body" as she was named Celebrity Ally of the Year.
The former first minister took the gong at the Bank of London Rainbow Honours awards, with singer Beverley Knight highly commended in the same category.
The event, which rewards people and organisations who "influence change and proudly promote LGBTQIA equality", was held at London's Natural History Museum and hosted by TV presenters Gok Wan and Anna Richardson, with SNP MP Hannah Bardell presenting Sturgeon with her award.
Sturgeon thanked her "wonderful friend", calling the night a "wonderful, uplifting, life-affirming, celebratory event".
Describing the awards as a celebration "with a moment of reflection and perhaps a moment of warning", she told the audience: "Firstly, the progress towards equality is not linear, it is not one-directional, it can go backwards as well as forwards, and this is a moment where we must be strong in making sure it continues to go forwards.
"And secondly, we must do that in a united manner. We must not - never, ever - give in to the attempts to divide and rule.
"I have, or it feels as if I have, said this in Scotland until I am blue in the face. Let's see if it ultimately proves to be effective but I will not stop saying it ever: my rights as a woman are not diminished in any way, shape or form by the enhancement of the rights of trans men and women. Never, never ever, let anyone tell you otherwise.
"So this is a moment for unity, it is a moment for solidarity, it is a moment for strength and for courage, and this room tonight exemplifies courage, often in the face of adversity."
She went on: "For as long as there is a breath in my body, and I hope that is for some time yet to come, I will always be an ally, a strong unflinching, unequivocal ally."
The comments come as the Scottish Government prepares for a court fight against the UK Government over the Gender Recognition Reform Bill, which was a key part of Sturgeon's administrative agenda.
That was passed in December with support of around two-thirds of MSPs, but blocked by Westminster on the grounds that it infringes on UK-wide equalities laws.
The block saw the Section 35 veto powers of the Scotland Act used for the first time and the SNP-Green administration has taken the matter to the Court of Session.