Rebellion in SNP over gender reform has been a long time coming - Kenny MacAskill

Community safety minister Ash Regan resigned over the plansCommunity safety minister Ash Regan resigned over the plans
Community safety minister Ash Regan resigned over the plans
Pride comes before a fall and the rebellion that Nicola Sturgeon faced within her ranks has been a long time coming. Turning a deaf ear to concerns within the wider party, let alone parliamentary rank, she precipitated the largest parliamentary revolt in the SNP’s tenure in office. You’d have thought significant defections in recent years, added to siren voices from senior figures still within the ranks, would have been warning of trouble ahead.

But she pressed on regardless surrounding herself with gender reform zealots and people unwilling to challenge her. Loyalty must be earned not demanded and in her time as party leader she’s shown scant desire to build the former, throwing individuals to the wolves and pursuing her predecessor with a vengeance.

Further evidence, if it was required, was shown by her tetchy and frankly undignified reply to the resignation of Ash Regan as a Minister. Failing to thank her for her service was petty and the suggestion that she didn’t know about concerns the former Minister had are quite incredulous.

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Not only was it unprecedented but the breadth of the discontent was significant. Those involved can’t be written off as just serial malcontents or from one particular faction. It’s clear that Ash Regan objections were based on concerns about the impact on women’s rights. That would be shared by others but those involved included members not known for their feminist credentials and who don’t possess the religious convictions of John Mason, who likewise rebelled.

That shows the extent of the discontent lurking beneath the surface in the Party where the leader’s whims seem to have been made the Party’s raison d’etre to the exclusion of other issues. Those rebelling included relatively newer members of the Party but equally others whose roots are substantial. Kenneth Gibson MSP’s of the same vintage as me and was active in the cause when success looked forlorn. Jim Fairlie MSP who abstained has a family history in the SNP going back generations.

Despite that the Lady does not seem for turning. Gender Reform has become Sturgeon’s defining mission but it’s coming at a heavy price. Discontent is increasing and it’s hard to see how those who rebelled at this stage can be placated and they might well be joined by others in coming votes.

It is also beginning to look that the arrangement with the Greens was predicated on this rather than strengthening the Independence cause. Transphobia’s to be condemned unreservedly but fears for women’s rights remain and concerns over Self ID have increased.

A recent FOI to the Scottish Prison Service detailed that of 16 trans prisoners, 9 had only decided to transition after conviction. That smacks of an abuse never mind a threat to women offenders already deeply damaged.

The irony is that with Equalities legislation reserved, Sturgeon’s nemesis may be Kemi Badenoch who seems to have set her sights on opposition to this. She won’t be the only political leader to suffer either. Clips of Keir Starmer trying to define a woman and instead sounding a blethering idiot, rather than an alternative Prime Minister will be hammered out in months to come.

Gender Reform has been a slow burn but it is igniting politically.



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