In an interview, the Scottish Government’s Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity said “we would not put balance on the question of racism or anti-Semitism” however argued “we allow this fictional notion of balance when it comes to anti-trans [views].
Critics, including opposition parties have called for the Green MSP's comments to be investigated and have written to the First Minister on the issue.
It comes as debates around the Gender Recognition Act reform continue as earlier this year the Scottish Government tabled the new legislation to simplify the process for a trans person to obtain a certificate legally recognising their acquired gender.
Currently, those who wish to obtain a certificate need a medical diagnosis and a two-year period of living as that gender. The new proposals include the removal of the need for medical assessment, and would also allow someone to obtain a gender recognition certificate through self-declaration after six months.
Some groups have raised concerns that the new legislation could have an impact on the single-sex exceptions in the Equality Act. They’ve also expressed fears the change in law could potentially place women in danger from men who might abuse a self-identification system.
However, supporters say the reform will provide life-changing benefits for the trans-community and drive forward equality for a marginalised group.
In an SNP and Scottish Greens' power-sharing agreement last year, both parties agreed the reform would be introduced to the Parliament in the first year of the parliamentary session.
Talking to the The Herald on Sunday about the reporting of certain issues whilst discussing the Gender Recognition Act, Slater said the BBC “only recently stopped putting on climate deniers because they required balance.
"We wouldn’t put balance on the question of racism or anti-Semitism, but we allow this fictional notion of balance when it comes to anti-trans [views]. The whole thing is disgusting.”
Ms Slater also said during the interview opposition to the GRA was being partly funded by “certain right-wing American groups” which Journalist and ex-Labour adviser Susan Dalgety said was a “claim that has no basis and is made in a deliberate effort to defame legitimate campaigners.”
Following the comments, Scottish Conservative spokesperson for gender reform Meghan Gallacher MSP has written to the First Minister asking her to “dissociate herself and her government from Lorna Slater’s outrageous and inflammatory comments”.
Ms Gallacher said: “The GRA is an extremely sensitive issue that evokes strong passions on both sides of the debate. That’s why it’s imperative that Scottish Government ministers discuss it in a measured, tolerant way.
“For Lorna Slater to equate those who have legitimate concerns over the impact of this legislation on women’s rights and safety with racists is ignorant and highly offensive. And to suggest that their views should not be given a platform is a dangerous, indefensible attempt to deny free speech.
“It also, arguably, amounts to a breach of the Ministerial Code, which requires ministers to treat others with consideration and respect. So I think this ought to be investigated.
“These narrow-minded, intolerant comments are unacceptable from a government minister. The First Minister, who made the reckless decision to invite Scottish Greens into her government, must not only condemn them but reassure concerned women that their misgivings about this legislation will be afforded the respect they deserve in the legislative process.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said Ms Slater “at no point” suggested anyone engaging in respectful discussion about reform of the GRA should be excluded from the debate
They added: “There is broad consensus that transphobia should have no place in modern Scotland.
“Ms Slater was explicitly and solely referring to transphobes when she said some people were trying to portray trans women as if they were all ‘inherently dangerous’ and sought to make the point that people who espouse such views should not be given a platform to do so.”