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by Kirsteen Paterson
23 April 2024
Scottish Government response to Cass Review is 'sop' to Greens, Labour claims

Public health minister Jenni Minto | Alamy

Scottish Government response to Cass Review is 'sop' to Greens, Labour claims

The Scottish Government's response to the Cass Review is a "sop" to the Scottish Greens to "keep the Bute House Agreement alive", Labour has claimed.

In a statement to the Scottish Parliament, Public Health and Women's Health Minister Jenni Minto said the Scottish Government needs time to fully consider the 400-page report by paediatrician Dr Hilary Cass and its 32 recommendations.

She announced that a new multi-disciplinary team led by the Chief Medical Officer and including paediatric, pharmacy and scientific expertise will be convened to examine clinical recommendations of the paper and how they may apply to Scotland.

And she said the SNP-Green government "remains absolutely committed" to "reforming and improving gender identity healthcare". 

Minto said: "This was a key part of the Bute House Agreement, and we will not waver in that commitment."

But Scottish Labour depute leader Jackie Baillie said Minto's statement lacked substance, stating: "The Cass report is a four-year long piece of work that is evidence-based, informed by expert clinicians and by those with lived experience, so it deserves to be treated seriously. Yet this statement feels more like a sop to the Greens to keep the Bute House Agreement alive."

Last week it emerged that NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and NHS Lothian have suspended the use of puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones for new patients aged under 18.

Members of the Scottish Greens are to vote on whether or not to leave government in the wake of the puberty blocker decision and the scrapping of climate targets.

Party co-leader Patrick Harvie and senior colleagues have expressed doubt over the scientific credibility of the Cass Report, with Harvie repeatedly refusing to say whether he accepts its conclusions.

Opening her statement, Minto said: "I want to start by speaking directly to our young people, and in particular our trans and non-binary young people across Scotland. 

"I know these last few weeks and months have been incredibly difficult with increased media attention and toxic online commentary. I understand how shocking, upsetting and destabilising the announcements last week and the public conversation around them will have been for you and your families."

She went on: "Ministers do not make clinical decisions in any field of medicine, and gender identity services is no exception. I fully support health board autonomy and clinical decision-making and the commitment of clinicians to their patients in the services alongside their wider multidisciplinary teams is unwavering."

Last week ministers resisted opposition calls to make a statement on the report.

Today Minto said it is "vitally important" that the findings of the review, which was carried out into services in England, are "carefully considered to assess to what extent they are relevant to the approach to gender identity healthcare in Scotland".

Green MSP Gillian Mackay said the Scottish Trans organisation had suggested the set-up of a Scottish research study.

Minto said Scotland is an observer of England's study into puberty blockers as part of trans healthcare. She went on: "Discussions are ongoing between clinical stakeholders on what further involvement may be appropriate. The Chief Scientist Office within Scottish Government is also involved, given their expertise and clinical research, and I hope we will be able to update parliament on the outcome of these discussions soon."

Conservative MSP Roz McCall said detransition, by which a trans-identified person reverts to living as their birth sex, had been mentioned "over 80 times" in the Cass Review, asking if the subject will be included in any work commissioned by the Scottish Government.

Minto said: "Given that we're talking about all that was included in the Cass Review, I think, detransitioning should be included."

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