First Stage of Scotland's Gender Reform Self-ID Bill Passes Despite Nine SNP MPs Defying Party Whip

First Stage of Scotland's Gender Reform Self-ID Bill Passes Despite Nine SNP MPs Defying Party Whip
Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon addresses the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, on June 28, 2022. (Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Owen Evans

Politicians have voted to back the general principles of the ruling Scottish National Party's upcoming legislation that will allow someone to legally change gender by making a statutory declaration.

In the stage one debate of the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill, the legislation passed by 88 votes to 33, with four abstentions.

In total, nine Scottish National Party MPs defied the whip and voted against the Bill. This included Ash Regan, John Mason, Stephanie Callaghan, Fergus Ewing, Kenny Gibson, Ruth Maguire, and Michelle Thomson. Annabelle Ewing and Jim Fairlie abstained.

A women's rights group called the bill "absolutely reckless."

The bill will allow individuals to change their sex by simply making a statutory declaration.

The age people can apply to the gender recognition process will be reduced from 18 to 16. Furthermore, the time period applicants need to live in the acquired gender will be reduced from two years to three months, with the requirement for a medical diagnosis and evidence removed.

There will be no requirement under the bill for an applicant to undergo surgery or hormone therapy and it’ll also simplify the process to change sex on birth certificates.

Significant Concerns for Women's Safety

Community safety minister Ash Regan quit hours before legislation saying: "my conscience will not allow me to vote with the government at the stage one of the Bill this afternoon."
For Women Scotland is a Scottish campaign group that says that the proposed reforms raise significant concerns for women's safety. They point out that the bill opens up the process to get a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) from the less than 1 percent of the population with an appropriate medical diagnosis to potentially 100 percent.

Susan Smith, co-director of For Women Scotland, told The Epoch Times the "more people have talked about this, the more people have got out there, the more concerns people have."

"There has come a point certainly for some of the politicians, where its dividing people who actually care about women's rights from the others who are putting their careers ahead of that," said Smith.

"MPs have faced horrid harassment over this, despite this no public statement from the first Minister. She speaks a lot about the suffering about trans people and has never once acknowledged what's happened to many women," said Smith.

One of the SNP's most high-profile MPs, Joanna Cherry has been vocal on self-ID, fearing this will impact on women’s safety. In an Edinburgh Fringe event in August, Cherry claimed that neither Nicola Sturgeon nor SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford gave her any support after she received rape threats because of her gender-critical views.

For Women Scotland is challenging the Scottish government with judicial review as they say said Scottish ministers have made a “clear error in law” by attempting to create a category of "legal sex" separate from a person’s biological sex.

The case is to be heard later this year in November.

"We believed quite strong[ly] that it was absolutely reckless of them to start to debate this before this was known," said Smith, adding that they are "legislating blind."

"Why do you we have a mechanism to do this anyway, we don't let people self-declare anything else?" said Smith.

"People have to go through tests for all sorts of things, citizenships, disability, etc. You can't just rock up and say I want a blue badge [a scheme that allows people with severe mobility issues, who have difficulty using public transport, additional parking rights]."

Gender Fluidity

Richard Lucas, leader of the new socially conservative political party the Scottish Family Party, told The Epoch Times that the problem with the bill is that it "reinforces the philosophy of gender fluidity."

"The more this philosophy is promoted through the government, the law, to education, through wider culture, then the more, in particular, young people are going to be deceived by it and are ultimately going to be induced to go down a path that is ultimately going to be very harmful to them," said Lucas.

A Scottish government spokesperson told The Epoch Times by email: "Our support for trans rights does not conflict with our continued strong commitment to uphold the rights and protections that women and girls currently have under the 2010 Equality Act, which includes a number of exceptions which allow for trans people to be excluded when this is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim."

“Those exceptions are important and the Scottish Government supports them. The Gender Recognition Reform Bill does not make changes to Equality Act or to those exceptions," he added.

“There is overwhelming support for the Bill, with over two-thirds of the Parliament and members of all five parties voting in favour of Stage 1,” said the Scottish government spokesperson.

Owen Evans is a UK-based journalist covering a wide range of national stories, with a particular interest in civil liberties and free speech.
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