Scotland's Gender Recognition Reform Bill: Why the passing of this legislation shows devolution has failed us – Brian Monteith

The Scottish Parliament, whae likes it? Well, obviously enough to keep it going.
Social Justice Secretary Shona Robison addresses MSPs during the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill debate last week (Picture: Andrew Cowan/pool/Getty Images)Social Justice Secretary Shona Robison addresses MSPs during the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill debate last week (Picture: Andrew Cowan/pool/Getty Images)
Social Justice Secretary Shona Robison addresses MSPs during the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill debate last week (Picture: Andrew Cowan/pool/Getty Images)

Despite all the harm I believe it has done to Scotland over the years, Holyrood continues to enjoy the support of the majority of people. Hopefully, last week’s passing of the Gender Recognition Reform Bill might reduce that number.

Like a mob of drunks let loose in a brewery, being without self-restraint, not paying attention to the rights of the sober majority, not listening to the professionals who deal with the broken lives and social devastation they create – the Scottish Parliament continues to be intoxicated by its own power.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Politicians talk of protecting minority rights, but in truth some minorities are more deserving than others. Once given royal assent and the Bill becomes an Act, Scots shall be living in a country where the rights of a sex offender are given greater priority than the rights of any women or children. That cannot be right.

A male sex offender can decide to change his gender to become a woman legally but will remain a man biologically – and most importantly, physically. The new woman-by-gender will have rights to be in women’s spaces, hospital wards, changing rooms, prisons and count as women on boards of directors or government agencies.

And let me say, unequivocally, this is all about the power of men to do harm. No one is for a second troubled by the thought of the few women on the sex offenders’ register applying to reassign themselves as males to obtain entry to the exclusive spaces of men. It is the threat of male violence and intimidation, both mental and physical, but especially physical, that is being escalated.

Attempts to prevent sex offenders from having the right to become gender imposters, physically and mentally trolling, intimidating and bullying biological women were rejected by a majority of members of the Scottish Parliament.

The Scottish Government, the SNP-Green coalition, attempted to provide reassurance by giving a right of veto over sex offenders changing their gender to the Scottish police. In other words, women are now relying for protection not on the law as a testable right in court, but on functionaries of the law who are, as we well know, open to error.

This reminds me of the recent smart idea of SNP-Green politicians agreeing to the Scottish Prison Service giving everyone in our gaols a mobile telephone for their own use. Within no time convicts were causing mayhem by calling ambulances to the prison gates to collect them, ordering drugs to be delivered by drones and contacting their associates. Trusting the police to get it right by simply vetoing every sex offender seeking gender reassignment applicant will not endure.

Inexplicably, all but two Labour MSPs supported the Bill despite seeing their attempts to amend it rejected. An opportunity to pull the rug from the SNP-Green coalition and stand with the majority of Scots was sacrificed in favour of the rights of sex offenders. Some MSPs that call themselves liberals also decided the risks of rape and murder are not heightened.

The Scottish Parliament used to apply the precautionary principle to prevent people causing harm through smoking or drinking – but is unwilling to use the same principle for protecting people from sex offenders. Having no restraint from a second chamber, able to slow inconceivable and unpopular change down, Holyrood simply does what it wants.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The original idea of devolution – that of devolving decision-making to the most appropriate administrative level, be it Scotland (as we have a separate legal system), the unitary local authorities (as their local identity gave them a demos) and community councils (as they demonstrated an ability to build civic pride) – was a noble, if at times, näive one. Its weakness was always that it required people to act in good faith, by which I mean to make devolution work – not just at the Scottish Government level but through extending the process by devolving powers from Scottish ministers to people and their communities.

And there were at first many people of good faith who tried to make it work. Indeed many, myself included, who opposed the creation of the Scottish Parliament gave losers’ consent, rolled up our sleeves and set about making it work. Unfortunately, the initial euphoria was hijacked by those seeking to retain power for its own sake or worse, using it as a Trojan horse to break up Britain.

Instead of continuing the devolution process, the parliament became inward-looking by centralising local institutions and used financial powers to exert greater central control. It emasculated our local authorities, community councils and school boards while empowering quangos whose allegiance to the Scottish Government is beyond question. Now it is taking away the rights of women and children.

For great damage to be done to people all it takes is for the Scottish Government to be captured by zealots – then forcing through laws by creating a culture of silence by using the fear of ending the careers of those who might speak out in opposition.

We are therefore faced with the great irony that in order to protect Scottish women and children from the real and tangible risks that the Gender Recognition Reform Bill presents, we must hope the UK Government, formed by a party of minority support in Scotland, will step in and use its powers under Section 35 of the Scotland Act to prevent the Bill going forward for Royal Assent.

If devolution relies on a Tory Westminster government to work, it surely is time to switch off the life-support system.

Brian Monteith is a former member of the Scottish and European Parliaments and Editor of



Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.