Trans flag

The Westminster government announced on 16 January that it would block the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill from being granted Royal Assent. That decision sees Westminster use powers within the 1998 Scotland Act to override decisions of the Scottish Parliament for the first time ever.

Campaigners have now announced that they will be protesting the decision of the Westminster government. A rally will be taking place on 19 January in Edinburgh. According to the organisers, Westminster blocking the legislation is “an attack on trans people and the Scottish Parliament”. The rally has the backing of the LGBTIQA+ wings of four of the parties with representation in the Scottish Parliament – the Scottish Greens, the SNP, the Liberal Democrats and Labour.

Following the announcement from the Westminster government, Beth Douglas, a queer activist from Glasgow who has campaigned for gender recognition reform said, “To put it simply the Tories are attacking devolution in the name of intolerance. The real reason the UK Government has decided to block Scotland’s gender recognition reform bill with a section 35 order is not because it would affect reserved matters. Instead, it’s because, just like previous countries, it would show their concerns to be entirely false & strengthen the case to introduce Self ID in the rest of the UK. The Conservative party had a choice honouring the devolution settlement or keeping a manufactured culture war alive. They choose the culture war.”

The Bill is designed to make it easier for trans people to obtain a gender recognition certificate by removing the requirement for a medical diagnosis.

In the final parliamentary vote, 86 MSPs voted in favour of the legislation and 39 vote against it. The overwhelming majority of Labour and SNP MSPs backed the reforms. Three Conservative MSPs rebelled against their party and voted for it. Every Green and Liberal Democrat MSP supported the Bill.

Green MSP Maggie Chapman has said that the Greens will ‘resist’ the Tories over their decision to block the Bill. She said, “This is a dark day for our devolution settlement, for democracy, and for trans rights. It sets a very alarming new precedent that should concern everyone who believes in devolution and wants the Scottish Parliament to exist. Only one month ago, MSPs voted overwhelmingly for Gender Recognition Reform. It was a proud day for equality, and for our Parliament. To see a reactionary Tory government trying to block or overturn it is nothing short of outrageous, and we will resist them every step of the way.”

The Scottish Greens are currently encouraging members of the public to write to the UK government demanding they don’t block the Bill.

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Image credit: Torbakhopper – Creative Commons