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Scottish Government to challenge gender Bill block in court

12 Apr 2023 3 minute read
Social Justice Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville. Photo Andrew Milligan PA Images

The Scottish Government is to challenge Westminster’s decision to block controversial gender recognition reforms in court – with Holyrood’s Social Justice Secretary insisting legal action is the “only reasonable way” of resolving the situation.

Shirley-Anne Somerville confirmed the Scottish Government is to lodge a petition for a judicial review after the UK Government turned to never-before-used powers under the Scotland Act to prevent legislation passed by Holyrood from gaining royal assent.

MSPs from all parties had backed the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill in December last year, with the legislation introduced to simplify and speed up the process for trans people to obtain legal recognition in their preferred gender.

Adverse impact

But the UK Government said the Bill would have an adverse impact on the operation of the UK-wide Equalities Act, and Scottish Secretary Alister Jack confirmed Section 35 powers would be used to prevent the legislation from going forward.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said on Wednesday that that decision had been made “after taking very careful and considered advice”.

Speaking to reporters in Belfast, Mr Sunak added: “We had concerns, as the UK Government – the Secretary of State – set this out at the time, about how Scotland’s gender recognition act would interact with reserved powers, about the operation of the Equalities Act, the protection of women elsewhere in the UK as well.

“That’s why we took the decision to block the GRR. Obviously there’s a court process, we will follow that through.”

Ms Somerville said the legislation had been “passed by an overwhelming majority of the Scottish Parliament, with support from members of all parties”.

She said the use of Section 35 represented “an unprecedented challenge to the Scottish Parliament’s ability to legislate on clearly devolved matters”, and “risks setting a dangerous constitutional precedent”.

Ms Somerville said: “In seeking to uphold the democratic will of the Parliament and defend devolution, Scottish ministers will lodge a petition for a judicial review of the Secretary of State for Scotland’s decision.

“The UK Government gave no advance warning of their use of the power, and neither did they ask for any amendments to the Bill throughout its nine-month passage through Parliament.

“Our offers to work with the UK Government on potential changes to the Bill have been refused outright by the Secretary of State, so legal challenge is our only reasonable means of resolving this situation.

“It is important to have clarity on the interpretation and scope of the Section 35 power and its impact on devolution. These matters should be legally tested in the courts.”


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Owain Morgan
Owain Morgan
10 months ago

So, the UK Government had nine months to consult with the Scottish Government on the Gender Recognition (Scotland) Act, but they didn’t. The UK Government gave the Scottish Government no advanced notice of their intention to use section 35 powers to block the Act. Then when the Scottish Government reasonably asked the Scottish Secretary what changes could be made to the Act for the block to be removed, he refused outright. Regardless of what you think of the Gender Recognition (Scotland) Act, the attitude of the UK Government towards the Scottish Government is disgusting and demonstrates the contempt they have… Read more »

Wynn
Wynn
10 months ago
Reply to  Owain Morgan

We will lose. It’s another waste of money to appease the Greens. However, about everything else you say is spot on, but as Glen says below, why did they roll over on Indyref? it’s a mess up here just now and it all happened during Sturgeon’s period in charge. She has been a disaster in every way. Eight wasted years.

Owain Morgan
Owain Morgan
10 months ago
Reply to  Wynn

I’m sorry, the Gender Recognition bill is necessary to ensure that Registrars and other Civil servants can’t delay or block Transgendered persons from getting Gender Recognition certificates or other ID that they need stating their gender identity. Anyone who thinks that is wrong is discriminating against Transgendered persons FULL STOP. Rolled over!? Really!!? Precisely what would you have the Scottish Government, regardless of leader, do when a UK Government, of any political persuasion, says NO and the British Supreme Court goes along with it. Should they do what the Catalaan Government did and end up in Jail, or worse?! Nicola… Read more »

Wynn
Wynn
10 months ago
Reply to  Owain Morgan

Hi Owain, I appreciate what you are saying but I have to live here and I can assure you Sturgeon was a disaster, a complete and utter disaster for the independence movement and the party – this should be a wealthy party and now it’s on it’s uppers.. Quick points: No a Catalan approach wasn’t necessary but there was a much better approach available part of which was not to block the attempt by ordinary citizens led by Martin Keatings to address the Section 30/referendum question years earlier. Her government actively blocked that, bankrupted the guy then did it ham-fistedly… Read more »

Glen
Glen
10 months ago

So the SNP Gov. that meekly accepted Westminster blocking a 2nd indy referendum are prepared to fight for their GRR bill that only 4% of Scots voters actually agree with.
No wonder they are losing members by the 1000’s.

Wynn
Wynn
10 months ago
Reply to  Glen

Spot on.

Owain Morgan
Owain Morgan
10 months ago
Reply to  Glen

Last time I checked the Scottish Government DID challenge the UK Government’s refusal to allow a 2nd Independence Referendum in the British Supreme Court, just like they’re doing with the Gender Recognition bill. Like for like in a Democratic, Constitutional and peaceful manner. Beyond that, how else would you like the Scottish Government to go about gaining a 2nd Independence Referendum? FTR, the last time a devolved Government defied an Imperialist Government on the Constitutional matter of Independence all the members of that Government had arrest warrants issued for them and most of them are now political prisoners in Spanish… Read more »

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