The SNP’s new gender recognition reform is a danger to the safety of women and girls

Published: 23 December 2022

Like many other Western countries, we are in an almighty, polarised mess about transgender rights, particularly competing trans and female rights in relation to security and sport. The underlying tensions have been exacerbated by Nicola Sturgeon’s latest pot-stirring in the culture wars, in which the Scottish First Minister railroaded through Holyrood the appalling Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill, legislation that will put the safety of women and children at risk. This time, however, she may have overreached.

The bill abolishes the need for a medical diagnosis if an individual wishes to change gender, reduces the age at which one can apply to do so from 18 to 16, and drastically cuts the timescale for getting a gender recognition certificate. The Cabinet in London – particularly Kemi Badenoch, whose ministerial responsibilities include Women and Equalities, and Alister Jack, the Scottish Secretary – is concerned. The UK Government has raised the threat of stopping the bill from receiving Royal Assent.

One of the heroes of the ill-tempered three-day Holyrood debate on the bill was Kenneth Gibson, one of nine brave members of the SNP who understands the law of unintended consequences and, in a totalitarian party where voting with your conscience is treachery, defied their leader. “If a fox said it was a chicken, would you put it in a hen house?” he enquired, apropos reforms making it easier for biologically male sex offenders to get into women’s prisons. He spelled out what he called the “inconvenient truth”, that “trans women are physically male and, as a group, present the same hazard that other men present – those who pretend to be trans, even more so”.

Once Ms Sturgeon has the bit between her teeth, however, she’ll keep it clenched there even if it’s damaging her gums. Extreme trans ideology has dictated her policy, driving Scotland’s most famous figure, J K Rowling, to appear in a T-shirt describing the First Minister as a “destroyer of women’s rights”. Reem Alsalem, the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women and Girls, wrote and repeated in person in Holyrood that the bill’s proposals “potentially open the door for violent males who identify as men to abuse the process”, which “presents potential risks to the safety of women in all their diversity (including women born female, transwomen, and gender non-conforming women)”. But with all parties other than the Conservatives whipping their MPs to vote obediently with the First Minister, resistance was futile.

Now we are relying on the UK Government to stop the madness. Ms Badenoch had warned in advance that it was “not possible” for the proposed legislation to be “fully contained” within Scotland. She now says: “The Scottish government has not addressed the full implications of their bill – especially on the lives of women and girls. The UK Government is now looking at provisions that can prompt reconsideration and allow MSPs to address these issues.” Equalities law is the preserve of Westminster, leading Mr Jack to say ministers will consider vetoing the legislation, and the Prime Minister to add that “it’s completely reasonable … to have a look at it, understand what the consequences are for women and children’s safety in the rest of the UK, and then decide on what the appropriate course of action is.”

Some suggest that Ms Sturgeon is deliberately causing a row that can again be portrayed as Westminster trying to bully Scotland. Others think she is herself being bullied by her government colleagues, the fanatical Greens. In either case, there might be some nervousness in Westminster about blocking her bill. There shouldn’t be: this is too important a matter. Most of the public – including trans people – want the issue to be addressed calmly and without bowing to the extremes. That means Ms Sturgeon’s dreadful bill has to go.

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