NICOLA Sturgeon will not raise controversial Holyrood gender reforms in her meeting with Rishi Sunak tonight as she considers the issue settled, it has emerged.
The First Minister’s official spokesman said she had no intention of broaching the Gender Reform Recognition Bill passed by MSPs just before Christmas.
He also said that the constitution “may come up”, although it might not, despite Ms Sturgeon’s plan to use the next general election as a de facto independence referendum.
The First Minister is however likely to raise the UK Government’s planned anti-strike legislation, the cost of living crisis and NHS pressures.
The UK Government must decide by the middle of next week whether to block the Gender Reform Bill using an untested part of the law which established devolution.
London has warned it may make an order under Section 35 of the 1998 Scotland Act to stop the Bill receiving royal assent and becoming law as it cuts across UK equality law.
The move would be unprecedented, and the Scottish Government has said it would be fiercely resisted, almost certainly through a court battle.
There were protests outside the Scottish Parliament today by opponents of the Bill, as well as counter-protests by supporters.
READ MORE: Former Advocate General weighs into Holyrood gender reform row
Ms Sturgeon is due to have dinner with the Prime Minister in the Inverness area this evening, an event instigated by the UK Government.
Mr Sunak’s first official visit to Scotland since entering Number 10 comes ahead of a joint government announcement on green freeports tomorrow.
Mr Sunak is expected to announce that the Cromarty Firth and Firth of Forth will get the Treasury-funded sites, which are designed to attract businesses with tax breaks.
However Ms Sturgeon will not take part in the Cromarty event and return to Edinburgh to chair a Scottish Government’s resilience meeting on the NHS winter crisis tomorrow.
Ms Sturgeon and Mr Sunak, who first met in person last November, are due to be the only politicians at this evening’s event, although a few key officials will also be present.
Unusually, neither government is expected to issue a formal read-out of the talks, although the First Minister is expected to tweet after the meeting.
The FM’s official spokesman said: “The constitution may come up. I’m not saying that definitively. It will or won’t.”
Asked whether the Gender Reform Bill would be raised, he said: “Not planning to raise it.
“I mean, it’s been passed comprehensively by the Scottish Parliament on a cross party basis, so not planning to raise it.
“If the Prime Minister brings it up… well it’s up to the PM whether he wants to raise that issue or not.
“If the PM raises it, obviously the FM will respond and we’ve already made our views on that very clear – the fact that it is within [legislative] competence, that it’s been comprehensively passed by the Scottish Parliament, and any attempt to undermine the democratic will of the Scottish Parliament will be vigorously contested.”
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Asked if the Scottish Government welcomed the dinner invite, the spokesman said: “It’s always welcome to have open lines of communication and discussion.
“Face to face meetings are always welcome.”
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