Puberty blockers: After Cass Review, Humza Yousaf must ban these drugs or explain why he thinks they're safe for children – Euan McColm

The continued failure of Humza Yousaf to seriously address the use of puberty blockers despite the Cass Review of NHS gender services for children is unacceptable

It’s perfectly straightforward. After leading paediatrician Dr Hilary Cass published her review of NHS services for gender-confused children and young people in England last week, there should have been serious – and prompt – responses from across the political spectrum.

Cass reported that so-called “puberty blocking” drugs had been prescribed without adequate understanding of their long-term effects. And she revealed that all but one study into their use were of such poor quality as to be of no worth.

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Let’s make no mistake, Cass confirmed the existence of a major medical scandal in which trans activist ideologues were allowed to influence NHS treatment when evidence to support the prescribing of “puberty blockers” and cross-sex hormones simply didn’t exist.

Humza Yousaf must make his position on the use of puberty blockers on children clear (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)Humza Yousaf must make his position on the use of puberty blockers on children clear (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Humza Yousaf must make his position on the use of puberty blockers on children clear (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Some politicians were swift to speak up. Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting said Cass’s report should mark a "watershed moment” in the provision of health services to young people who might be questioning their identity. Tory Health Secretary Victoria Atkins promised an end to a “culture of secrecy and ideology over evidence and safety”. We wait to hear anything substantive on the matter from a member of the Scottish Government.

A four-year-long study highlighting major failings in the delivery of healthcare to gender-confused young people and confirming the risks of prescribing “puberty blockers” hasn’t merited any serious reaction from First Minister Humza Yousaf or Scottish Health Secretary Neil Gray.

Greens defiantly pro-treatment

More troubling is that fact that while the NHS in England has stopped prescribing untested “puberty blocker” drugs to children, the medication remains available to children in Scotland. The SNP has long peddled the idea of fundamental differences between England and Scotland but the notion that medication considered unsafe to prescribe in London might be just fine in Edinburgh is surely a leap too far.

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Last weekend, Scotland on Sunday reported that Yousaf is under pressure from SNP backbenchers over the Cass review. Some nationalist MSPs are said to fear the First Minister will try to placate the SNP’s government partners, the Scottish Greens, who remain defiantly pro-medical treatment in this area.

I can confirm tensions continue to grow. One SNP backbencher told me it was “absolutely bonkers” that Yousaf let days of headlines pile up without saying a word. "This isn’t some fringe issue… How hard is it for him to come out and say he’s read the report and we’re going to stop giving puberty blockers to Scottish kids?”

There’s no doubt that this issue stands to destabilise the SNP-Green power-sharing deal. The Greens – rigidly ideological on gender issues – are unimpressed by Cass. The party’s equalities spokeswoman, Maggie Chapman MSP, responded to the review by saying the Scottish Greens would “oppose any moves to increase the age of accessing gender-affirming care”.

It would be politically suicidal for Yousaf to take that line. When it comes to the medicalisation of confused children and teenagers, the Greens’ position is on the fringes. The First Minister must drag the SNP back into the mainstream. A week after Hilary Cass published her review, it’s time for Humza Yousaf either to announce a ban on puberty blockers in Scotland or to explain why he feels they’re perfectly safe.



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