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by Tom Freeman
24 April 2019
SNP ministers urge caution on changes to Gender Recognition Act

Digital economy minister Kate Forbes - Scottish Government

SNP ministers urge caution on changes to Gender Recognition Act

Proposed reform of the Gender Recognition Act to make it easier for transgender people to update their official status should not be rushed, a group of senior SNP politicians has warned.

Government ministers Kate Forbes, Ash Denham and Ivan McKee are among the signatories to the letter, which comes days before the SNP’s Spring conference.

The letter responds to a blog by equalities secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville calling for calm in a debate on trans rights which has become increasingly febrile.

MPs Carol Monaghan, Angus MacNeil, Joanna Cherry and Patricia Gibson are co-signatories, as is Joan McAlpine, convener of the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee and Ruth Maguire, convener of Equalities and Human Rights Committee. Several prominent SNP councillors have also signed.

“Conflating sex with gender identification affects a wide range of policy and service delivery, including data collection, education, health and social care, justice and sport. New information about this topic is emerging all the time and deserves to be properly scrutinised,” the letter reads.

“Changing the definition of male and female is a matter of profound significance. It is not something we should rush.”

A spokesperson for Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “No-one is proposing to change the definition of male and female. Trans men and women are amongst the most stigmatised groups in our society. They deserve to know that their government is working to change that – and we remain committed to doing so, whilst seeking to understand and address the concerns being raised.”

Trans people can already change their gender on driving licenses, passports, and school and medical records, and the proposed change would allow birth certificates to be updated without a psychiatric diagnosis.

All parties pledged to update the act in their 2016 manifestos and the Scottish Government has consulted on the proposals since 2017. Rape Crisis Scotland, Scottish Women’s Aid, Zero Tolerance, Engender, Equate Scotland, Close the Gap and the Women 5050 Campaign support the changes.

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