Readers' Letters: Gender ID law must be consistent across UK

Nicola Sturgeon says it would be “disgraceful” if the UK government were to block Scottish legislation on gender recognition, but surely she is completely missing the point.

Within the UK, people can move to live and work and form relationships anywhere they want. There are no internal borders. How you identify yourself is fundamentally important in our society, and if legislation is different in different parts of the UK, then that can only lead to problems, confusion and misunderstanding.

For this reason it is hugely important that any Scottish legislation is compliant at a UK level. This is not a political issue. It could potentially become a problem for ordinary people, both for those who want to self identify, and for others who exist outwith the bubble of this particular argument. If Scottish legislation is not compliant, then the UK government should block it. The Scottish Government is duty bound to operate within the law as it is, not how they might like it to be.

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Of course, this might all just be another excuse to have an argument, and they are not that bothered about the subject material at all. If that is the case, shame on them. On this particular issue, we need a common approach across boundaries, and our self important MSPs, all of them, need to understand that.

Is First Minister Nicola Sturgeon seeing clearly on the wider implications of Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill? (Photo by Russell Cheyne - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Is First Minister Nicola Sturgeon seeing clearly on the wider implications of Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill? (Photo by Russell Cheyne - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Is First Minister Nicola Sturgeon seeing clearly on the wider implications of Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill? (Photo by Russell Cheyne - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Victor Clements, Aberfeldy, Perthshire

Don’t block

Proposals by the UK Government to veto Scotland’s new gender recognition legislation are highly questionable.

Under the terms of the Scotland Act, a section 35 order could be sought by the UK Government, preventing the Gender Recognition Reform Bill from coming into force. For this to be enacted it must satisfy two conditions.

Firstly, that the Bill makes modifications to the law as it applies to reserved matters and secondly that the secretary of State for Scotland has reasonable grounds to believe it would have an adverse effect on the operation of the law as it applies to reserved matters.

However, it is to be noted the Bill does not impact on reserved matters. It is true that “equal opportunities”, as outlined in the Equality Act and the likely rationale for the UK Government to block it, is reserved to Westminster. However, the Scotland Act defines equal opportunities as “the prevention, elimination or regulation of discrimination” based on a range of protected characteristics. Gender reform doesn’t seem to fall within this reservation.

Wherever one stands on the legislation, blocking this via a Section 35 order would be unprecedented and further inflame tensions between Holyrood and Westminster.

Alex Orr, Edinburgh

Testing teens

Keir Starmer is to be congratulated for speaking out against optional gender change at 16.

As any parent of a teenager knows, and/or who has honest recall of their own teenship, teenage brains are full of nonsense with reason and rationality being but rare visitors. Modern studies of our brains proves the we are not fully “wired up” until we are at least in our mid-twenties. Given that most if not all teenagers have immature brains the rights of adulthood should not automatically be theirs; and even giving them the key of the door at 21 is risky. In a more sane world than today’s drinking, driving, smoking, front line military action, marriage, parenthood, betting, getting into debt, gun and pet ownership, and access to social media and voting would be illegal for all those whose brains are not yet complete.

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Brain scans are cheap, easy and reliable. A more pleasant society is guaranteed.

Tim Flinn, Garvald, East Lothian

Alarm bells

Has Nicola Sturgeon realised that her ploy of a de facto referendum was senseless? Or has she been persuaded by colleagues such as Pete Wishart of the pointlessness of what he calls a “massive gamble”? Ignominious U-turns are the order of the day for the SNP. An admission from our First Minister that she got it wrong, however, would be a first.

More likely, the alarm bells have been raised by the polls which show very low support for a referendum of any hue any time soon. The SNP for once have got themselves in a bind. They either go ahead with an ill-thought-out phony referendum plan or fight the next election on their record in government. Bring it on!

Colin Hamilton, Edinburgh

Powers grabbed

It is a bit ironic for Keith Howell (Letters, 16 January) and others to talk about the “democratic will of the majority” while failing to recognise the democratic mandate held by the Scottish Parliament to hold a referendum following the major constitutional change of Brexit which the vast majority in Scotland did not vote for.

Holyrood’s powers were not only eroded by Westminster’s power grab following Brexit, its democratic decisions are under constant threat. It is not just Westminster’s use of Section 35 to stop the Gender Recognition Bill becoming law – Grant Shapps’ anti-trade union strike laws which breach international law run roughshod over Holyrood and the bill on the EU retained law currently going through the House of Commons has a sunset clause that will enable UK ministers to scrap as many as 4,000 EU laws, many of which apply to devolved issues including competition rules, workers’ rights and environmental and food standards.

There would be no need for a de facto referendum if Labour were to do the decent thing and honour Scotland’s democratic right to choose our future rather than become democracy deniers.

Mary Thomas, Edinburgh

Friendly fire

For some inexplicable reason, SNP MSP Stewart McDonald thinks that Theresa May “prosecuted an extreme form of Brexit” (Perspective, January 14). In fact, what she advocated the softest of Brexits, meaning the UK would have stayed in the Single Market with no say on the rules that would have governed us. It would have been what the SNP want for Scotland, so I really do not see why he objected to it.

He suggests ignoring the winners in a referendum and just doing what the losers (ie the SNP) want. Brilliant. Why didn't I think of that? It removes the problem of winners and losers because the losers would win. That’s an SNP-type referendum.

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Apparently, in the NatThink world of an “independent Scotland” (what we voted not to be, remember?), he suggests that Unionists should be invited to an SNP “special conference in March” to put forward their point-of-view in an open, friendly and respectful environment". Where on earth would that be? Clearly, nowhere near the spitting, screaming nationalist mob outside the Conservative conference last year, or the screaming gang who penned Nigel Farage in a pub in Edinburgh Old Town. Where Scottish nationalists are involved, the words, “open, friendly and respectful” do not apply.

Mr McDonald says he wants to move “our national debate forward”. Surprisingly enough, I agree wholeheartedly. Start by recognising that you were beaten handsomely in the Independence referendum and work on how you can help benefit Scotland in the United Kingdom we overwhelmingly voted to stay in.

Andrew HN Gray, Edinburgh

Driven mad

William Hamilton wonders why Edinburgh Council wants to make bus lanes effective from 7am-7pm and asks what has changed (Letters, 16 January). The answer is the Council’s aim of reducing all road space for private cars to a single lane in favour of absolutely any other means of transport, whether they will use it or not.

Malcolm Parkin, Kinnesswood, Kinross

Israel apartheid

I am writing in support of a letter from Jack Kellet regarding Sir Keir Starmer’s uncritical support for Israel. which ignores the many abuses of the Palestine people by the far-right Israeli government (Letters,13 January). This government coalition contains ultra-nationalistic, anti-Arab politicians who are determined to annex all Palestinian territories by increasingly draconian laws imposed on the Arab people, and widespread intimidation. A reported 224 Palestinians were killed last year, many were protesters against inhuman practises such as the demolition of houses belonging Arab families who have lived there for a considerable time. Illegal Jewish settlers are allowed to attack Palestinians and their land with impunity while the police and Israeli soldiers do nothing to stop the settlers’ aggression.

Lest I am accused of being anti-Semitic, I have visited Dachau twice and believe that the treatment the Jews suffered at the hands of the Nazis was almost beyond human understanding. I accept that the Israelis have a right to defend themselves if attacked, but Israeli policy goes way beyond the oft quoted “an eye for an eye”.

Can Israel still be considered a suitable country that shares our common values? It refuses to back sanctions on Russia over Ukraine, for example. Their current government is presiding over an apartheid regime. There would be calls for sanctions against any other country behaving like the current Israeli government, but instead Israel receives almost no criticism from around the world and silent support from the UK Labour and Tory parties.

Vincent McCann, Edinburgh

Princely crimes

One presumes we can confidently expect the Metropolitan Police and Thames Valley Police to bring charges against Prince Harry.

He has helpfully outlined, in considerable detail, his use and possession of cocaine, a class A drug, and cannabis, a class B drug, and certain hallucinatory drugs.

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As these are indictable offences, they are not time barred for prosecution.

John V Lloyd, Inverkeithing Fife

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