Labour vows to reform Gender Recognition Act, but says SNP plans were about picking fight with Westminster

Anneliese Dodds accused the SNP of having a “cavalier approach".

Labour has vowed to reform the “outdated” Gender Recognition Act, but claimed the SNP’s approach had been more about “picking a fight with Westminster” than helping trans people.

Anneliese Dodds, the shadow women and equalities secretary, claimed her party would overhaul “outdated” laws to make it easier for transgender people to transition while maintaining protections for single-sex spaces.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Ms Dodds also insisted a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria would remain under Labour’s plans, as she criticised the Scottish Government’s drive to support a system of self-identification without one.

Anneliese Dodds has risked opening a rift with the Scottish Labour party over her trans comments.Anneliese Dodds has risked opening a rift with the Scottish Labour party over her trans comments.
Anneliese Dodds has risked opening a rift with the Scottish Labour party over her trans comments.

This was endorsed by Holyrood, but blocked by the UK Government, following the use of a section 35 order by Scotland secretary Alister Jack.

The issue has threatened to create a major rift with Scottish Labour, which backed the Holyrood reforms and have now sought to distance themselves from Ms Dodd’s comments.

Writing in The Guardian, Ms Dodds insisted her party would support trans people in Government. She said: “Changing gender is not a decision anyone makes lightly.

“The process is intrusive, outdated and humiliating. So we will modernise, simplify and reform the gender recognition law to a new process. We will remove invasive bureaucracy and simplify the process.”

Protestors for and against the Gender Recognition Reform Bill gather outside the Scottish Parliament. Picture: Lisa FergusonProtestors for and against the Gender Recognition Reform Bill gather outside the Scottish Parliament. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Protestors for and against the Gender Recognition Reform Bill gather outside the Scottish Parliament. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

The Gender Recognition Act was passed by Labour in 2004, but Ms Dodds claimed that “now, in 2023, we have a much better understanding of the barriers trans people face”.

Criticising the SNP proposals, Ms Dodds insisted Labour would “protect legitimate applications” and keep women safe.

She said: “Last year, the Scottish National party’s cavalier approach to reforming gender recognition laws seemed to be more about picking a fight with Westminster than bringing about meaningful change.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"The safeguards that were proposed to protect women and girls from predators who might abuse the system were simply not up to scratch. As a result, the Scottish Government is still picking up the pieces, with trans rights no further forward”.

She said this would mean a medical diagnosis was essential, and Labour would “not make the same mistakes”.

Ms Dodds said: “The requirement to obtain a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria remains an important part of accessing a gender recognition certificate. That’s especially the case now that gender dysphoria is no longer classified – and stigmatised – as a psychiatric disorder.

“It can help refer trans people into the NHS for support services. Nearly a quarter of trans people don’t know how to access transition-related healthcare. Requiring a diagnosis upholds legitimacy of applications and confidence in the system."

Ms Dodds also accused Lee Anderson, the Conservatives’ deputy chair, of trying to “stoke division” after he suggested the Tories should focus on “a mix of culture wars and trans debate” to hold on to power.

Her comments are a potential headache for Scottish Labour, which backed the Scottish Government’s proposals, with MSPs including Pam Duncan-Glancy, Pauline McNeill, Paul O'Kane and Daniel Johnson explicitly calling for removing medical diagnosis or "de-medicalisation" from the process of transitioning.

It also represents another U-turn for Sir Keir Starmer’s party, who vowed to "introduce self-declaration for transgender people" in 2019.

Mr O’Kane, Scottish Labour’s social justice spokesperson, distanced the Scottish branch of the party from Ms Dodds’ comments, saying: "Labour is committed to modernising and reforming the outdated and intrusive Gender Recognition Act, as well as ensuring exemptions in the Equality Act are upheld.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“Scottish Labour continues to support the demedicalisation of the process in Scotland.”

Former Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard refused to back Ms Dodds’ remarks, tweeting Scottish Labour had not changed its policy.

He said: “Scottish Labour's position on this is clear. We support self ID for trans people and oppose the UK Government's attempt to block the necessary reform we voted for.”

Labour’s Scotland Central MSP Monica Lennon also dismissed the claims, tweeting: “Labour has a proud history of advancing LGBTQ equality and women’s rights. To build on that, we must overcome fear and hate.

“The Scottish Labour manifesto rightly makes clear that our policy is to reform the Gender Recognition Act to demedicalise the process”.

Ms Lennon had previously criticised Sir Keir for "undermining" the Scottish party over the reforms, following the Labour leader questioning the planned reduction in the age at which someone can apply for a gender recognition certificate from 18 to 16.

There was also condemnation from LGBT charity Stonewall, which defended gender recognition reform (GRR) as the “most scrutinised piece of legislation ever passed by the Scottish Parliament”.

The body said: "The UK has fallen off track as an international leader on LGBTQ+ rights. Just eight years ago, we had the best LGBTQ+ rights in Europe, in 2023 we stand in 17th place.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“It is also important to note that the [GRR] Bill was backed by every established women’s organisation in Scotland, including Women’s Aid, Amnesty International, Engender and Rape Crisis Scotland.

"The vast majority of women MSPs voted in favour of the Bill. The majority of Scotland’s women MSPs, feminist advocates and policy experts are satisfied that the provisions in the Bill do not have negative impacts on women and girls in Scotland.

“If Labour are serious about reforming the Gender Recognition Act and enhancing trans people’s legal protections, we need a strategy informed by input from trans people on their needs and priorities, and a real understanding of how practice is working internationally, not just on legal recognition, but healthcare, anti-discrimination and education.”

A LGBT+ Labour spokesperson said: "It is very concerning that the Labour Party are signalling a retreat on their policy of demedicalised self-ID for the trans community at the next general election.

"We will continue to lobby and fight for the rights of all LGBT+ people and push the Labour party to go further for our trans siblings, including on demedicalised self-ID, and to build on their legacy as the party of equality".



Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.