Will the transgender conversion Bill be the final straw for Humza Yousaf? - Brian Monteith

The Cass Report on NHS England’s services for transgender children will ramp up pressure on the First Minister, writes Brian Monteith

Humza Yousaf does not have his troubles to seek, but any attempt to blame the Greens for having barmy policies is not going to cut it. As party leader it was his decision to continue with the Bute House Agreement that maintains the SNP-Green coalition, thus everything currently damaging the SNP’s reputation that stems from that fateful choice is owned by the First Minister.

We have seen in the last two weeks how Yousaf’s very own Hate Crime Act – he was the Justice Minister responsible for piloting it through Holyrood – has made him a figure of ridicule as more than 7,000 complaints (mostly anonymous) piled in during the first week, only for a paltry 3.8 per cent to be considered worthy of treating seriously. With many of the complaints lodged accusing a past speech of the First Minister as being hateful, but dismissed by Police Scotland, the warning his law would distract police officers from proper crime solving has been proven beyond reasonable doubt.

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The debate about the Hate Crime laws will not go away, there will be more complaints and many more examples of what might appear hateful acts the police decide – contrary to their own published guidelines – are not worthy of treating seriously. It will make the SNP-Green government even more of a laughing stock – but worse, will sully even more the reputation of the police for being independent of party politics.

Transgender rights activists protest during a Let Women Speak rally outside the Royal Scottish Academy in Edinburgh following the Hate Crime Act coming into force. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA WireTransgender rights activists protest during a Let Women Speak rally outside the Royal Scottish Academy in Edinburgh following the Hate Crime Act coming into force. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire
Transgender rights activists protest during a Let Women Speak rally outside the Royal Scottish Academy in Edinburgh following the Hate Crime Act coming into force. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

Yet the pressure on Yousaf, who has a great weakness for doubling down on bad decisions rather than seeking to extricate himself (and his colleagues), is only going to get worse, thanks to the publishing last week of the Cass Report on NHS England’s services for transgender children. Will the First Minister decide it has no relevance to the NHS in Scotland in effect, weaponising the issue?

Dr Hilary Cass, a former president of the Royal College of Paediatrics & Child Health, chaired the NHS’s independent review of how to improve NHS England’s gender identity services, tasked with ensuring children who are questioning their gender identity or experiencing gender dysphoria receive a high standard of care, meeting their needs, is safe, holistic and effective.

The final report from Cass found children had been let down by a lack of research and remarkably weak evidence supporting the use of medical interventions such as puberty blockers. It concluded children who think they are transgender are more likely to have mental health issues, a difficult family situation or have suffered abuse and should not be rushed into gender treatment. Instead it suggested such children need counselling to tackle such problems holistically, rather than being put on an automatic path to changing gender.

The changes that will now follow in the English NHS will lead to a complete overhaul of children’s transgender services publicly available.

If Humza Yousaf does not accept the Cass findings and ensure NHS services in Scotland are no worse (for example, no different) from those in England we will see, like we did with his absurd refusal to accept England’s ban on XL Bully Dogs, an exodus of people from England to Scotland – this time seeking transitioning treatment now withdrawn by English NHS authorities for being unsupported by evidence and therefore unsafe for children.

At the very least surely Humza Yousaf will need to suspend NHS Scotland transitioning services pending a Scottish inquiry able to show why such an esteemed figure as Dr Cass is wrong and services that are different should be available. Scottish politicians like to use the “precautionary principle” to introduce all sorts of bans pending evidence, if ever there was an example when that principle is required it is in preventing the NHS causing physically physical and mental harm to children troubled by their gender.

The First Minister must surely put the safety of children before the unforgiving and unbending idolatry of transgender activists within his coalition. Or would he rather – yet again – make Scotland an outlier for the sheer sake of it, simply because he can?

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Not only must he follow Cass, he must show real courage in considering how the Cass report impacts on his proposed Bill to ban transgender conversion therapy – a policy on which public consultation has just closed. Will Yousaf recognise the problems the Cass Report creates for his proposed Bill criminalising transgender conversion therapy, a key issue for his Green comrades-at-arms?

Dr Jenny Cunningham, a retired Glasgow-based community paediatrician for over three decades, has warned against the Bill and argues it is “reprehensible” the SNP-Green Government continues to endorse “affirmative gender care” – “which involves the use of experimental hormone treatments (puberty blockers and cross sex hormones) and surgical procedures such as mastectomies, castration and modifications of sex organs” now dismissed by Cass.

“If Cass herself questioned rather than ‘affirmed’ her own child or grandchild’s gender identification, would this lead to an arrest, or an investigation, would this be classed as conversion therapy?” asks Dr Cunningham.

Humza Yousaf is in a tailspin not even Douglas Bader might pull out of. The latest polling now shows even amongst SNP voters from the 2019 general election, more say he is doing a bad job (36 per cent) as first minister than doing a good one (29 per cent). That is a stunning 180 degree turn from the comparative January polling which showed 40 per cent thought he was doing a good job and only 26 per cent th ou ght a bad one.

The reality is Yousaf has lurched violently towards unpopularity and is no longer an asset, even amongst his own party supporters. At the rate of rejection Humza Yousaf is achieving it is not exaggerating to say SNP officials in grey kilts will be knocking on his door after the coming general election, and there will be nothing non-binary about it. Resign or face a leadership challenge will be Humza Yousaf’s self-defined reality.

Brian Monteith is a former member of the Scottish and European parliaments and editor of ThinkScotland.org



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