Gender Recognition Reform Bill: Transgender people are being used as a political football in contrived SNP-Tory row – Kenny MacAskill

The constitutional row between the UK Tories and Holyrood’s SNP/Green government is a contrived spat which does neither party any credit.

The gender legislation is flawed, even dangerous in parts. It needs to be amended. There are many aspects, though, that are not only acceptable but required. The issues that cause the controversy and those, in particular, that threaten or conflict with other existing rights need to be reviewed. But the place for that is the courts, not a political stooshie.

Holyrood, having been challenged previously on issues with cross-border implications such as children’s rights and where there was clear conflict with reserved equalities laws, knew a problem was looming. Having fast-tracked the referendum bill to the Supreme Court, there was no reason not to do so here.

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Proceeding regardless was foolhardy. Had it not been blocked by the Tories in Westminster, it was going to be challenged anyway. If the SNP/Greens wanted to mobilise opinion against Westminster interference in Scottish democracy, then the referendum was the issue. Failing to push that has let down the independence movement and if they think they can rally the massed ranks on this, they’re delusional.

Trans rights activists demonstrate outside the Scottish Parliament (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

But the idea that the Tories are some champions of women’s and children’s rights is absurd. It’s doubtful Alistair Jack even knew what gender reform was until all this came about. After all, while Kemi Badenoch has a longstanding opposition to “wokeism”, Jack and many others in the Tory party, including some like Penny Mordaunt, either supported or at best slept through it.

I’ve written before about the problems of allowing trans women who are still physically male, including some who are convicted sex offenders, into the women’s prison estate south of the Border. Getting their own house in order first might be a better priority for the Tories at Westminster.

The solution shouldn’t be an outright political rejection but a referral to the courts. This shouldn’t be a constitutional issue but a social one. It was a mess created in Holyrood, that cannot be sorted by Westminster diktat. It firstly requires legal clarity and then legislative amendment, but in Holyrood. The losers at the moment are those genuine transgender people who are simply being used as a political football.

Kenny MacAskill is Alba Party MP for East Lothian

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