Ruth Davidson: 'Rights of trans people and women do not need to be in conflict'

The former leader of the Scottish Conservatives has said services for transgender people should be improved and criticised politicians and journalists for making transgender rights a culture war issue.

Baroness Ruth Davidson, speaking at a local election campaign event in Portobello, Edinburgh, was asked whether she agreed transgender people should be banned from single sex spaces such as women’s toilets or changing rooms.

However, the peer criticised existing services available to transgender people and said the debate must “be better”, adding there was “so much heat and not enough light in this debate”.

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Her comments come after Nicola Sturgeon told The Times she would argue “until my dying breath” there was no conflict between women’s rights and trans issues as she declined to definethe characteristics of a woman.

Baroness Davidson said: “I think 90 per cent of the country are in exactly the same place, which is let’s see how we can make things better and easier for people in the trans community who, as a minority, are vulnerable, are more open to attack, are more likely to be victims of crime, but while also seeking reassurances for rights for women that have been hard won over decades.

"We can have the high level debate if we want and we should have it as respectfully as we can, but we need to get our services sorted for people because some of the waiting times are contributing to the mental health issues that people in the trans community face, some of the issues particularly with the younger members of the trans community.”

Baroness Davidson, who is a member of the LGBT community, said the rights of women and transgender people “do not have to be in conflict”.

She said: “We could be better at this and as journalists I'm going to give you all a scolding as well as some of the politicians who are using this or have appeared to use this as a culture war issue.

Ruth Davidson has criticised politicians and journalists around the trans rights debate

"Trying to do gotcha questions about who is a woman, who is a man, I'm not sure that helps, particularly for people in the trans community who are looking at the way this is reported, as well as the way policymakers are making decisions.

"In terms of making sure absolutely we look after women's safety and women's rights and single sex spaces, [I] agree that we need absolute reassurances about that, but we also need to have a real understanding and compassion for people who are one of the most persecuted minorities in this country.”

Baroness Davidson also said the debate was not helped by social media, adding nuance was required due to the complexity of the issue.

She said: “A lot of this comes from down to the migration of discussion from parliamentary chambers to being online where quite often you have a set amount of characters.

“You cannot discuss this in a sentence, you can't even discuss this is in a paragraph.

“This is nuanced, this is difficult. It requires a whole lot of competing issues in terms of where you are on services, on understanding, on lots of different areas and just racking it up as a hierarchy of concerns or being on side or the other is difficult.”

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