Gender Recognition Reform Bill: Court of Session ruling over Scottish Government's plans for transgender self-ID is historic moment – Susan Dalgety

Court of Session says it was lawful for the UK Government to block the Scottish Parliament’s Gender Recognition Reform Bill

When the phone call came through late yesterday morning to tell me that the UK Government had won its court battle with the Scottish Government, I cried. Tears of joy or tears of relief, I am not quite sure. After composing myself, I sat down to write this column, but where to start?

The judgment could not have been clearer. The Gender Recognition Reform Bill, passed by the Scottish Parliament a year ago, on December 22, 2022, cuts across the UK Equality Act. It will not become the law of the land. That means that self-ID, the process whereby anyone over the age of 16 can change their legal sex by simple self-declaration, will not now be available in Scotland. It means that women’s sex-based rights under the Equality Act – such as single-sex spaces in domestic abuse centres – will remain protected.

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And it once again exposes the terrible lie that Shona Robison told the Scottish Parliament last March when she introduced the badly flawed bill. She said: “There is no evidence that predatory and abusive men have ever had to pretend to be anything else to carry out abusive and predatory behaviour.” A few months later, double rapist Adam Graham, also known as Isla Bryson, slunk into view. A predatory man who, if the bill had been in force, would have been able to change his legal sex from male to female for the price of a stamp.

Members of the Scottish Feminist Network protest outside the Court of Session during a court hearing in September (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)Members of the Scottish Feminist Network protest outside the Court of Session during a court hearing in September (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Members of the Scottish Feminist Network protest outside the Court of Session during a court hearing in September (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Confused teenage children

Lady Haldane’s judgment is a victory for common sense. The overwhelming majority of Scots know that human beings cannot change their biological sex, no matter that Nicola Sturgeon sneeringly told them their views were “not valid”. Most women know that from time immemorial, some men will pretend to be something else to carry out their sexual abuse. Priests. Teachers. Loving family members. Women. There is no end to an abuser’s guile when it comes to securing his victims.

It is a victory of sorts too for those broken-hearted parents who watched helplessly as their confused teenage children claimed they had changed sex, convinced by a gender-identity lobby funded by the Scottish Government and lionised by our political elite. Lady Haldane’s judgment won’t stop the scandal of social transitioning that has infected many of our schools, but it may cause some people to stop and think.

Above all, it is a victory for the thousands of women across Scotland who, for the last five years at least, have campaigned against self-ID and gender reform. After years of being dismissed by government ministers, civil servants, party leaders, backbench MSPs and large parts of civil society as bigots, transphobes, right-wing Christian fundamentalists, they have been proved right.

JK Rowling risked her reputation

Every green, white and purple ribbon tied around a tree, every rally, every hashtag, every email ignored by MSPs, every court case won or lost, has been worth it. Armed with nothing more than righteous anger and logic, a small army of women took on the Holyrood elite and won.

There are too many women to name, too many groups to single out, but they all know who they are and what they did, whether it was resigning a comfortable government position as Ash Regan did, or risking a global reputation like JK Rowling. Women sacrificed careers, lost lifelong friendships, got into debt or risked arrest to campaign against a bad piece of legislation that should never have got past the consultation stage. Women who had never studied law became legal experts, raising cases in the highest court in the land. Women who had never taken an interest in politics became seasoned campaigners. Women who had gone through life quietly found their voice.

The Scottish Government has 21 days to appeal the judgment. When the Scottish Secretary, Alister Jack, announced his plans to veto the gender bill, using section 35 of the Scotland Act, the then First Minster, Nicola Sturgeon, described the move as a “full frontal attack” on Scottish democracy. And yesterday, her protégé, Humas Yousaf, described the ruling as a “dark day for devolution”. But he added a note of caution to his Braveheart rhetoric. “We, of course, respect the court's judgment and will take time to consider its findings.”

Humza Yousaf should not appeal

If he doesn’t appeal, he risks the coalition with the Scottish Greens, who are evangelical about self-ID and gender identity politics. Maggie Chapman MSP, the party’s equality spokesperson, said yesterday the ruling crushed basic rights for “some of Scotland’s most marginalised people”. And she issued a warning, whether for Yousaf or Jack or both, only she knows. “This is far from over,” she said.

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But wiser counsel may well prevail. Lady Haldane’s ruling has rid the First Minister of a troublesome piece of legislation that had proved very unpopular with the voters and, as shown yesterday, did affect women's sex-based rights. It also offers him something every SNP First Minister regularly craves, a major grievance against the UK Government. A clever politician would, regretfully, refuse to appeal. Instead, he would frame the decision as a glorious defeat and use it to foment a constitutional battle with Westminster.

We will find out over the next three weeks whether Yousaf is so deep in debt to the Scottish Greens and the gender-identity lobby that he feels forced to make one final token gesture and appeal to the Supreme Court. Or whether, with one eye on the member for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch and the other on his in-tray, he decides that the wise thing to do is to focus on the issues that are keeping Scots awake at night – the cost of living, the failing NHS and our children’s education.

Whatever he decides, the real winners of yesterday’s historic ruling were not the UK Government, but the women of Scotland who would not wheesht, no matter how often they were told to shut up.