Scottish Tories call for free vote on gender reform bill
The Scottish Conservatives are calling for MSPs to be given a free vote in next week's debate on the Gender Recognition Reform Bill.
The party is allowing its own members to vote as they wish, though it is widely expected the majority of Tory MSPs will oppose the proposals.
The bill is designed to make it easier for trans people to legally change their gender by removing medical barriers to obtaining a gender recognition certificate.
Instead, individuals will simply need to self-identify as their acquired gender through a statutory declaration.
Concerns have been raised about the bill’s unintended consequences for women’s rights.
But the parliament’s equalities committee concluded that the bill “will not change any of the protections or definitions set out in the Equality Act 2010”, nor would it “change or remove women’s rights”.
The majority of the committee voted to back the general principles of the bill, though the two Conservative members – Pam Gosal and Rachael Hamilton – dissented.
Regarding the stage one debate on the bill next week, Hamilton said: “This is a delicate issue which deserves a nuanced and intelligent debate. The only way we can get this is if we allow MSPs the freedom to express their sincerely-held views.
“I hope that other parties will follow our lead in making the Bill a free vote, so that we can scrutinise this Bill with the honesty and good faith it deserves.”
A party spokesperson added that it had been agreed the MSPs should be able to come to their own view on the bill “rather than being pressured into a position by party whips”.
The legislation is expected to pass as the SNP, Labour, Greens and Lib Dems have all expressed their support.