Scottish Government reveals 17,000 responses for consultation on gender reform

Around 17,000 people and organisations responded to the Scottish Government’s second consultation on its controversial plans to reform gender legislation, it has been revealed.

Minister Shirley-Anne Somerville is spear-heading the government's plans to change the Gender Recognition Act.

A letter from Neil Rennick, director of the government's Justice Directorate, to Scottish feminist policy collective MurrayBlackburnMackenzie (MBM) states that around 200 groups submitted views on the plans to change the Gender Recognition Act (GRA), with the rest of the responses coming from individuals.

It is the second time the government has consulted on the proposed changes, which would allow transgender people to self-declare their gender identity rather than needing a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria. The previous call for views in 2017 received 15,697 responses.

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The figures were revealed as the Scottish Government issued a contract for an independent analysis of the responses to the latest consultation, with the results due to be completed by March 19, 2021 – just before the Scottish Parliament breaks for the Holyrood elections.

Equalities Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville had already said there would be no draft Bill brought forward before the 2021 elections as a result of the Covid pandemic.

However, Mr Rennick said the Scottish Government had been “reviewing the position”. He said: “While work on the draft Bill will remain paused generally, we are now proceeding to take forward the independent analysis of the consultation responses. This is with the intention of publishing the analysis report prior to the dissolution of the Scottish Parliament in advance of the Parliamentary election.

"We received around 17,000 responses to the consultation. Around 200 of these responses were from organisations and groups. We intend to publish the consultation responses from organisations and groups when the analysis report is published, where we have permission to do so.”

He said while not all responses would be made public because of "the pressures of Covid-19 related work”, the government was “considering alternatives to help inform the public about the range of responses we received”.

The contract, which was issued last week, invites tenders from companies to analyse the responses, with the overall aim of the contract to “provide robust and timely analysis and reporting on the responses to a consultation, to inform the provisions of the draft Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill”.

The proposals to change the law have proven controversial with transgender groups campaigning heavily for reform, stating the current process to gain a Gender Recognition Certificate is "demeaning”. New women's groups have sprung up in response raising concerns that allowing self-ID undermines women's rights and vital single-sex spaces.

Last month the UK Government, which was also considering introducing self-ID, rowed back from the reform. However, it will reduce the £140 fee to a nominal amount and make the process less bureaucratic.

Lucy Hunter Blackburn of MBM said: "It is evident from the number of responses that the proposed changes to the GRA raised more substantial issues than a simple administrative reform.

“It is good to see the Scottish Government taking forward analysis and publication of these consultation responses. They represent an enormous amount of work, much of it unpaid, by people coming from all perspectives and are a substantial resource for policy makers and campaigners, whatever position they take on the questions asked.

"We also welcome the commitment to finding an effective way to share the content of those."

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