Gender Recognition Reform Bill: Humza Yousaf's decision to take UK Government to court may backfire badly – Scotsman comment

Some will view Humza Yousaf’s decision to take the UK Government to court over the Gender Recognition Reform Bill as a ‘dead cat strategy’ to deflect from the SNP’s current turmoil. Others may see it as an expedient act to keep the Scottish Greens inside the two parties’ informal coalition.

Both of those ideas may well be true and neither casts doubt on the sincerity of the First Minister’s insistence that he is seeking to defend the will of the Scottish Parliament. They could all, coincidentally, be true.

However, more important than any of that, the legal challenge is an utterly unnecessary distraction from the weighty issues that should be the focus of the new government. Picking a fight with Westminster – even one that will cost a large amount of public money in lawyers’ fees – is probably in the first chapter of the SNP’s political playbook, but this particular one represents a complete failure to ‘read the room’.

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As a nation, Scotland is struggling to deal with a severe cost-of-living crisis, while the problems in accessing prompt NHS care only ever seem to get worse. Finding ways to revitalise the economy and fix the health service should be Yousaf’s top priorities, for the sake of the country but also to help restore his party’s battered reputation.

The legal challenge may also backfire badly on those hoping to improve trans rights. Spending much time and energy on a court challenge that many view as unwinnable will only delay the arrival of a compromise with the UK Government that would allow a version of the bill to become law.

Yousaf could have sought to assemble a cross-party delegation of SNP, Labour, Liberal Democrat, Green and Conservative MSPs who voted for the bill and asked them to thrash out a deal with Scottish Secretary Alister Jack. This would have been a quiet, calm way to resolve the matter relatively amicably. Instead, the complex issue of transgender rights is now being mixed into the independence debate.

Whatever his reasons and whether he wins the court case or not, Yousaf may soon discover that the public will simply not tolerate a preoccupation with such ‘culture war’ issues when there are much more pressing matters – including some of life and death – to address.



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