Falkirk East MSP joins SNP rebels to vote against gender recognition reform
Michelle Thomson, who represents Falkirk East, was one of seven rebel MSPs who didn’t vote with the government at the first stage of the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill.
The most high-profile was Ash Regan who quit as community safety minister before the vote. Others were Stephanie Callaghan, Fergus Ewing, Kenneth Gibson, Ruth Maguire and John Mason with two SNP MSPs – Annabelle Ewing and Jim Fairlie, abstaining.
The Bill passed stage one in the Scottish parliament with 88 votes in favour, 33 against and four abstentions.
Speaking after the vote, Ms Thomson said: “As the elected representative for Falkirk East constituency, I voted against the Bill as it currently stands, taking into account the majority views of the constituents who contacted me. I am in favour of modification of the Gender Recognition Act of 2004 but these changes must be fit for purpose.
"I believe further work needs to be done and will review any proposed amendment as it makes its way through the Parliament.”
The Bill passed the first stage in the Scottish Parliament despite the division, with 88 votes in favour, 33 against and four abstentions.
It is not yet known what action the SNP will take against the rebels MSPs. An party spokesperson said: “As is normal practice, SNP MSPs are expected to support government legislation."
It is understood issues involving the party whip are treated as an internal matter and dealt with on a case-by-case basis.
The Bill will remove the requirement for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria when seeking a gender recognition certificate, and also reducing the length of time an applicant must live in their acquired gender from two years to three months, with an additional three-month reflection period. The minimum age for applying will be reduced from 18 to 16.
Groups representing women and girls have raised concerns over safety if the Bill is passed in its current form, but those in favour – including Scottish Government ministers – have rejected these claims.
Michael Matheson, who represents Falkirk West, voted in favour of the bill, as did Central Scotland MSP Richard Leonard, who said: “I start from the position that, as a socialist, I believe in equality and a world free from all forms of bigotry and discrimination. Trans people are among the most discriminated against in society, and this has led to disproportionately high rates of mental ill health and risk of suicide.
“I believe we have to do everything we can to tackle that and to remember that trans rights are human rights."