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by Louise Wilson
18 January 2023
Stephen Flynn: Gender bill block a ‘dangerous moment for devolution’

The SNP Westminster leader said the Scotland was “on a slippery slope from devolution to direct rule”

Stephen Flynn: Gender bill block a ‘dangerous moment for devolution’

The SNP’s Stephen Flynn has accused the UK Government of “seeking to stoke a culture war” following its blocking of the Gender Recognition Reform Bill.

He added the move was a “dangerous moment for devolution”.

But Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the decision was purely down to the consequences the legislation would have on reserved matters.

The exchange at PMQs on Wednesday afternoon came after Scottish Secretary Alister Jack made a section 35 order on Tuesday which, under the Scotland Act, allows him to instruct the Scottish Parliament’s presiding officer not to submit the bill for royal assent.

The bill, which was passed by MSPs last month, seeks to make it easier for trans people to legally change their gender but the UK Government has said it would have “adverse effects” on the Equality Act.

 

Flynn said: “This is the Conservative Parry seeking to stoke a culture war against some of the most marginalised people in society – and Scotland’s democracy is simply collateral damage.”

Also referring to the Retained EU Law Bill, set to be debated in the Commons on Wednesday afternoon, the SNP Westminster leader said the Scotland was “on a slippery slope from devolution to direct rule”.

Sunak denied the accusation, insisting the section 35 order was only issued to protect UK-wide legislation and was “not about the devolution settlement”.

He added: “I would urge the honorable member and his party to consider engaging with the UK Government on this bill, as we did before the legislation passed, so that we can find a constructive way forward in the interest of the people of Scotland and the United Kingdom.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has indicated her government would seek to take the UK Government to court over the section 35 order.

Earlier in PMQs, Sir Keir Starmer quizzed the Prime Minister on ambulance waiting times. Sunak responded by criticising Labour for not backing the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill.

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