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by Staff reporter
29 November 2022
Protestor ejected from conference after First Minister protest

Campaigners outside the Scottish Parliament in 2021 | Credit: Alamy

Protestor ejected from conference after First Minister protest

A woman was ejected from a conference on tackling violence against women after protesting the First Minister.

The protestor – whose identity is unknown – told Nicola Sturgeon that she had “let down vulnerable women in Scotland” over her plans to reform the Gender Recognition Act.

The woman said the government was “not allowing women to self-define”, adding “shame on you” directed towards the First Minister.

Sturgeon was speaking at the Zero Tolerance Scotland conference marking its 30th anniversary.

After the protestor was asked to leave, the FM apologised to the other attendees of the conference if it was her presence which had sparked the outburst.

She added: “I do not seek to close down anybody’s freedom of speech. It is important that voices are heard.”

But she said that it was important to not to “further stigmatise a group of women who are already stigmatized”.

Continuing her speech to the conference, the First Minster said she would continue working with the sector on “achieving that vision of a country free from violence against women and girls”.

She said: “I have a determination to do whatever I can do to help build a Scotland were women and girls can and do feel safe.”

Ahead of the event, delegates were sent an email asking them to refrain “from discussions of the definition of a woman and single sex spaces in relation to the gender recognition act.”

“We understand that as feminists we have strong opinions on these subjects, but this is not the place for that conversation,” the note added.

The government has denied suggestions that the request was made by the First Minister or officials, after the Scottish Conservatives called for clarification.

A spokesperson said: “It is categorically untrue to suggest the First Minister or Scottish Government officials asked Zero Tolerance to ban or limit discussion in any way whatsoever.”

Tory MSP Rachael Hamilton said the request was “alarming”, particularly in light of the intervention from the UN’s special rapporteur on violence against women and girls urging the government to pause the bill.

Reem Alsalem last week warned the bill could present “potential risks to the safety of women in all their diversity”.

Hamilton said: “Women should be able to raise potential threats to our safety with the First Minister. It is not for anyone in Scotland to limit free speech over legitimate concerns about women’s protection.

“I hope the First Minister will clarify if anyone in the government or her party asked this charity to ban discussion of women’s safety in relation to the GRR Bill.

“It would be completely wrong to shut down discussion of women’s single sex spaces. This is an important issue that demands free debate and full consideration of all views.”

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