Tory attack on devolution must be stopped - Lorna Slater

The UK government's disgraceful attempt to block the Gender Recognition Reform Bill is a blatant attack on devolution, democracy and the rights of trans people.

Lorna Slater is the minister for green skills, circular economy and biodiversity
Lorna Slater is the minister for green skills, circular economy and biodiversity

This is one of the most scrutinised Bills in the history of our Parliament. It passed following years of debate, including two consultations and a full committee scrutiny process.

Despite all of the heated rhetoric and the often toxic nature of the debate, the Bill itself is really very simple.

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Currently, those who wish to apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate have to spend large amounts of time on a difficult, bureaucratic and unfair process if they want to have their gender legally recognised.

The point of Gender Recognition Reform is to simplify this and remove some of the difficulty and trauma from the process. It’s not a new or particularly radical policy and is already the norm in many countries across Europe, including Ireland and beyond.

It is a small but important step to improve the process for legally recognising a trans person’s gender. It is about respect and seeing people for who they are.

The reaction from the UK Government has been to use it as a political stick to undermine devolution and demonise trans people. It is part of a toxic culture war that Downing Street is using to distract from its failings.

They know that their legal arguments are spurious at best. That was apparent during the Secretary of State for Scotland, Alister Jack’s, statements on it, which were all over the place.

But for them this has never been about equality or the law. It is about crude political calculation and treating trans people as pawns.

Unfortunately the response from the UK Labour Party has been to wring its hands and try to play both sides. They have treated it as a party-political skirmish rather than a fundamental question of rights and where power lies.

They are doing a disservice to the many Labour MSPs who backed the Bill and spoke passionately and eloquently in its favour.

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It should never have had to come to this, but if it ends up in a legal process, then its conclusion will be pivotal to the future of democracy.

The blocking tactics we are seeing from the Tories are yet another harsh reminder of the severe limitations of the current devolution settlement. If they are successful, then we can be sure that it is not the last time they will be used.

The precedent that has been set should not only concern independence supporters. It should concern everyone who believes in devolution, democracy and our Scottish Parliament.

That is why the First Minister has announced that the Scottish Government will resist Westminster’s veto.

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We cannot let scaremongering win. Whether it is by supporting the Scottish Government process or joining protests, my Scottish Green colleagues and I will do everything we can to deliver the step to equality that our Parliament voted for.

Lorna Slater is the minister for green skills, circular economy and biodiversity