MSPs to consider final changes to gender recognition reforms 

The legislation aims to make it easier for people to obtain a gender recognition certificate.

MSPs to consider final changes to gender recognition reforms  iStock

Plans to make it easier for people to change their legally recognised gender are expected to be approved at Holyrood.

MSPs will consider amendments to the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill on Tuesday.

They are expected to sit late into the evening as they vote on proposed changes to the Bill, before a final vote is held at the Parliament on Wednesday.

The Scottish Government has insisted that the Bill will not introduce new rights for trans people, but is about “improving” the way that trans people gain legal recognition.

However, opponents of the legislation have raised concerns about the safety of women and girls.

It also prompted the resignation of Ash Regan as a government minister after she said she could not vote in favour of the Bill.

A number of amendments put forward by MSPs are set to be supported by the Scottish Government, with ministers having worked with members on their proposals.

It includes one which would enable an application for a Gender Recognition Certificate to be paused if police apply for a Sexual Harm Prevention Order or a Sexual Offences Prevention Order.

Amendments submitted by MSPs from across political parties are also expected to receive backing.

Concerns have been raised over a series of amendments put forward relating to the Equality Act 2010, which is UK Government law and so is in an area outside of Holyrood’s legislative powers.

Ahead of considerations of the Bill, MSPs heard on Monday evening from two UN experts over the legislation.

Reem Alsalem, the UN’s special rapporteur on violence against women, warned that plans to introduce self-ID could see violent men taking advantage of loopholes to “get into women’s spaces and have access to women”.

She told MSPs that the Bill should be paused to allow for a “comprehensive adjustment” to be made regarding issues that precede the current reform,

“It’s just taking the time to do this properly and not to rush through it while at the same time ensuring that we look at the totality of rights,” Alsalem said.

Scotland’s social justice secretary Shona Robison insisted that the Government’s support for trans rights does not conflict with its strong commitment to uphold rights and protections for women.

“The Gender Recognition Reform Bill simplifies the process by which a trans person can obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate, which many find intrusive, medicalised and bureaucratic,” she said.

“The Bill does not introduce any new rights for trans people – it is purely about improving the way trans people gain legal recognition, which has been a right in the UK for 18 years.

“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. This Bill makes no changes to that Act.”

Robison explained that she has lodged amendments to the Bill, having worked with MSPs on proposed changes.

“We will give, have given and are giving consideration to all the amendments that have been lodged.

“I have also lodged a number of amendments which I have worked on with other members.

“However, as I have made clear, I cannot support any amendment which has a serious risk of being outwith the Scottish Parliament’s legislative competence and would risk seeing the entire Bill prevented from coming into law.”

Scottish Conservative equalities spokesperson Rachael Hamilton pointed to the concerns raised by Alsalem as she suggested the SNP has “no intention” of seriously acknowledging her concerns.

Hamilton called on MSPs to listen to the UN expert and to reject the “rushed and reckless” reforms.

She said: “Reem Alsalem has restated her grave fears that the SNP’s Gender Recognition Reforms could risk women’s safety, while raising alarm bells over the lack of consideration that has been given to the valid concerns of women and girls throughout this process.

“The SNP have done everything they can to dismiss Reem Alsalem’s expert view, so it’s welcome that MSPs and the Scottish public have been allowed to hear her concerns first hand.

“However, with voting on this Bill to start (on Tuesday), it seems clear that the SNP have no intention of seriously acknowledging her concerns.

“With the safety of women and girls at stake, the Scottish Government should have followed the UN Special Rapporteur’s advice and paused this unwanted Bill weeks ago.”

Hamilton added: “I urge MSPs of all parties to listen to Reem Alsalem’s damning verdict and vote against these rushed and reckless reforms.”

Pam Duncan-Glancy, Scottish Labour’s social justice spokesperson, stated that MSPs “need to work together” to protect human rights.

“Labour’s priority is to make this a Bill both trans people and the wider public can have confidence in,” she said.

“We will always stand up for equality and human rights, and today we will continue working to bring people together and make this Bill work for everyone.

“Our amendments offer real solutions to address the concerns people have about this Bill, dealing with key questions on the Equality Act and single-sex spaces and ensuring the new process is properly monitored and reviewed.

“MSPs need to work together to protect human rights across the board and deliver a workable de-medicalised gender recognition process.”

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