Gender Recognition Reform Bill: Rishi Sunak says it is 'completely reasonable' for UK Government to block Scotland legislation

Rishi Sunak has said it is “completely reasonable” to consider blocking new gender legislation in Scotland.

Visiting a homeless shelter in London on Friday, the Prime Minister said: “Lots of people have got concerns about this new Bill in Scotland, about the impact it will have on women’s and children’s safety.

“So I think it is completely reasonable for the UK Government to have a look at it, understand what the consequences are for women and children’s safety in the rest of the UK, and then decide on what the appropriate course of action is.”

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His comments come after Scotland’s social justice secretary Shona Robison said her Government would “vigorously contest” any attempts by Westminster to block the gender reforms.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak leaves Downing Street. Picture: PAPrime Minister Rishi Sunak leaves Downing Street. Picture: PA
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak leaves Downing Street. Picture: PA

In the hours after the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill passed at Holyrood, Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said his office would look at what could be done to stop the Bill, including invoking section 35 of the Scotland Act, which provides an effective veto if legislation will have an impact on reserved matters.

UK equalities minister Kemi Badenoch also said the UK Government was “now looking at provisions that can prompt reconsideration” of the legislation.

In comments that confirm the likelihood of the Bill ending up in the courts, Ms Robison promised to defend the legislation.

“The Bill as passed is absolutely within legislative competence and of course was backed by an overwhelming majority with support from all parties,” she said on BBC Radio Scotland on Friday.

“I think any attempt by the UK Government to undermine what is, after all, the democratic will of the Scottish Parliament, it will be vigorously contested by the Scottish Government.”

Opponents of the legislation fear that it will impact on the Equality Act, particularly in relation to the exemption that allows for trans people to be excluded from single sex spaces in some circumstances.

The Bill, the Scottish Government says, will have no impact on the exemptions. Passed by a margin of 86 votes to 39 on Thursday, the Bill will make it easier for trans people to obtain a gender recognition certificate (GRC) by removing the requirement for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria.

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It also lowers the minimum age for applicants to 16 and drops the time required for an applicant to live in their acquired gender from two years to three months – six for those aged 16 and 17 – though with a three-month reflection period.

MSPs embarked on an intense debate on the Bill this week, spending more than 24 hours on the consideration of amendments and the final vote.

The legislation also prompted MSPs across the chamber to vote against their party, with nine SNP MSPs, including former minister Ash Regan, defying the party whip. Labour’s Carol Mochan and Claire Baker did the same, and resigned from their frontbench positions.

Former Scottish Tory leader Jackson Carlaw joined Jamie Greene in voting in favour of the Bill, but the party had declared a free vote on the issue.

Meanwhile, Dunja Mijatovic, the commissioner for human rights at the Council of Europe, welcomed the passage of the Bill.

“I welcome Scotland’s new law adopted by the Scottish Parliament introducing legal gender recognition based on self-determination,” she said.



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