A former Scottish Government minister who quit over controversial gender reform laws claims Nicola Sturgeon “was well aware” of her concerns over the Bill prior to her resignation.
Ash Regan said she could only vote for the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill last Thursday if she was “100% sure that women and girls would not be in danger”.
The former community safety minister said she was “not against reforms” which would simplify the process by which people can obtain a gender recognition certificate.
Nine SNP MSPs defied the party whip during the vote – the biggest backbench rebellion to hit the party since it assumed power in 2007.
The First Minister said she was surprised at Regan’s departure, claiming in a letter: “At no stage have you approached me…to raise your concerns about the Gender Recognition Reform Bill or the vote.”
However, Regan said Sturgeon did know her position on the vote at Holyrood last week, which passed 88 votes in favour to 33 against, with four abstentions.
“I think last week the vote should, for the SNP, should have been a free vote,” Regan said.
“I think that healthy debate is important. I think that robust challenge is, after all, how we create good law.
“My conscience would not allow me to vote for a bill where I could not be 100% certain that women and girls would not be in danger.”
She added: “I want to be really clear on this point, I am not against reforms that make the lives of trans people better.
“Many people have written to me over the last few days and women across Scotland, many, many women across Scotland have deep concerns about this and I believe that their voices deserve to be heard.”
When asked about Sturgeon’s reaction, Regan replied: “The First Minister was well aware of the concerns that I held on this issue.”
Harry Potter author JK Rowling was among those to praise Regan for her “principled” stance.
Rowling, who has previously tweeted a picture of herself wearing a T-shirt calling Scotland’s First Minister a “destroyer of women’s rights” wrote on social media that Regan would “rightly be seen as a heroine when future generations of Scottish women look back at the profoundly misogynistic legislation currently being pushed through by the Sturgeon government.”
The Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill includes proposals that would remove the requirement for someone to obtain a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria before they can seek a gender recognition certificate (GRC).
The law also sets out to reduce the amount of time someone must live in their acquired gender from two years to three months, with an additional three-month reflection period – while the minimum age for obtaining a certificate will be cut from 18 to 16.
Groups representing women and girls have raised concerns over safety if the Bill is passed in its current form.
Scottish social justice secretary Shona Robison told Holyrood that the changes would make the process of obtaining a gender recognition certificate “simpler, more streamlined, and more respectful of the privacy and dignity of trans men and women”.
The Bill is needed because “many trans people find the current system overly medicalised, complex, intrusive and invasive”, Robison said.