Tory Section 35 order a ‘dark day for trans rights’



SHONA Robison has hit out at Alister Jack’s decision to block the Scottish Parliament’s Gender Recognition Reform Bill, describing it as “a dark day for trans rights and a dark day for democracy.”

The Social Justice minister said she believed Whitehall had long planned on the Section 35 order, as the Tory government “does not like this bill, does not want this bill and will do everything to block this bill.” 

“But I want to be clear that we will do what we can to uphold the democratic will of this Parliament and I hope that those who supported this bill will work with us and work together in order to achieve that.”

Ms Robison was speaking in Holyrood, responding to an urgent question from Labour MSP Monica Lennon, who described the Section 35 order as “a cynical and dangerous power move by an out of control UK government determined to wreck this Bill at any costs.”

READ MORE: Alister Jack claims UK will ‘not veto Holyrood Bills when it chooses’

Ms Robison told MSPs: “I question what the implications are for future legislation of this Parliament.

“The Secretary of State says that he wants to find a constructive way forward, but the UK Government had multiple opportunities to provide constructive comments during the extensive consultation on the Bill during its passage and it did not do so. 

“It does not agree with the bill. So it has blocked it. The decision they have taken is political and it is a sad day for democracy and for devolution.

“However, I want to be very clear to all trans people that I know will be incredibly upset by this decision. 

“This government will seek to uphold the democratic will of this Parliament.”

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon confirms judicial review bid over gender reforms veto

The minister questioned the defence in the UK Government’s Statement of Reasons that it would create “two parallel and very different regimes” for issuing and interpreting Gender Recognition Certificates.

“When we hear one of the defences put forward by the Secretary of State for Scotland, that you cannot have divergent systems in the UK, well, that does rather question all of the other divergent systems that this parliament has put in place to make the lives of people here in Scotland better. 

“So I think it is very much a slippery slope.”

Tory MSP Rachael Hamilton told the parliament that Mr Jack was simply acting on legal advice taken on the cross-border implications of the law. 

She said: ”Legal experts arrived at the conclusion that this Bill would have consequences for the operation of the UK-wide equalities protections. And that is a reserved matter that falls outside this Parliament’s devolved competence.”

Ms Hamilton said the Secretary of State had “recognised that the intention of this Bill is to respect, support and understand the needs of transgender people going through the process of changing their legal sex and has offered to work with the Scottish Government to create a Bill that is legally competent and falls within the devolved powers of this Scottish Parliament.”

She asked Ms Robison if the Cabinet Secretary would accept his offer.

READ MORE: Gender reform Scotland: Douglas Ross backs UK’s move to halt Bill

The Minister said: “Well, of course, it would have been better had the Secretary of State made contact perhaps at the start of this process rather than a section 35 order.”

“I am always up for discussions with the Secretary of State or any one else,” she added. “But I thought it was quite telling that in answer to one of the questions during his statement, the Secretary of State said there cannot be two different regimes for gender recognition in the UK. 

“So I’m struggling, therefore, to understand what amendments would need to be brought to the Bill and what amendments would be allowed to the Bill in order to avoid two different regimes for gender recognition. 

“Does that mean that essentially we’ve just have to revert to the 2004 process?”

She said the onus was on Mr Jack to “make his position clear.”

Tory MSP Pam Gosal raised comments by the First Minister that the legislation would “inevitably end up in court.” 

She asked Ms Robison id she would respect the court’s decision, “regardless of any outcome.”

The Cabinet Secretary said Ms Gosal “should have respected the outcome of this Parliament and the UK Government should have respected the outcome of this Parliament.”

She added: “We will vigorously defend the legislation and our democratic process. Of course we would. It would be a democratic outrage not to.”

Ms Robison said the reality of what Mr Jack was asking for was that there could not be two different systems of gender recognition within the UK.

“It’s a very cynical approach, and a fig leaf and very disingenuous in its entirety.”


 





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