MSPs voting on gender reform should 'vote with conscience over party'

A final vote on the controversial Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill is scheduled for Thursday.

MSPs voting on gender reform should ‘vote with conscience over party,’ Tories say STV News

MSPs voting on controversial plans for gender reform should be free to “vote with their conscience” over party loyalties, the Scottish Conservatives have said.

Nine SNP MSPs defied the whip to vote against the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill in October during its initial hearing.

The final vote on the legislation, which will make it easier for trans people to acquire a gender recognition certificate (GRC) by removing the requirement for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, is due to take place on Thursday.

The Bill, which has attracted criticism over safeguards for women and girls, will also lower the minimum age for applicants from 18 to 16 and drop the time required for an applicant to live in their acquired gender from two years to three months – six for people aged 16 and 17 – though with a subsequent three-month reflection period.

Former community safety minister Ash Regan quit during the previous vote, citing that she could not be “100% sure that women and girls would not be in danger” if the reforms passed.

Tory MSP Rachael Hamilton urged those against the legislation to vote against it if they have concerns, rather than toe the party line.

“With women’s rights and safety at stake, this is no time to play politics or prioritise personal advancement,” she said.

“I urge my fellow MSPs who have concerns over these proposals – even those who are on the fence – to vote with their conscience and oppose this rushed and shoddy legislation this week.”

Earlier this month, Hamilton and fellow Tory MSP Pam Gosal wrote to the convenor of the Holyrood Equalities Committee calling for an emergency session to review evidence by by UN special rapporteur Reem Alsalem.

Ms Alsalem said parts of the Bill presented “potential risks to the safety of women in all their diversity”.

However, six feminist organisations including Rape Crisis Scotland and Scottish Women’s Aid condemned the remarks of Ms Alsalem in an open letter.

And her evidence was also criticised by the UN’s independent expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, Victor Madrigal-Borloz – who stated the reforms “would bring Scotland more in line with UN guidelines on gender”.

A lengthy session in Holyrood is expected on Wednesday, where more than 150 amendments have been proposed.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We welcome the letter by Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the UN independent expert on sexual orientation and gender identity, which clearly states that the Gender Recognition Reform Bill is in line with international obligations and standards.

“It also states the clear view of the UN that legal gender recognition should be offered on the basis of self-declaration. This is a helpful intervention that can deal with some of the misinformation about what this bill does, and importantly what it doesn’t do.”

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