Holyrood will 'vigorously contest' Westminster gender reform block

Scotland secretary Alister Jack previously said reforms to gender recognition laws could be blocked by Westminster.

Scottish Government will ‘vigorously contest’ Westminster attempt to block gender reform Bill STV News

Any attempt by the UK Government to halt gender recognition reforms from becoming law will be “vigorously” contested by the Scottish Government.

It comes after MSPs on Thursday passed legislation which aims to simplify the process for a trans person to obtain a gender recognition certificate.

The Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill was approved following three days of lengthy consideration of more than 150 amendments.

Despite a majority of parliamentarians voting in support of the Bill, opponents raised concerns over the impact it could have on the safety of women and girls.

Following the final vote on the Bill at the Scottish Parliament, the UK Government indicated that it could seek to stop the legislation from becoming law.

The legislative process for Holyrood sees a Bill, if passed, sent for Royal Assent around four weeks after a vote.

This means that the King will give formal agreement on the Bill, which will then become an Act of the Scottish Parliament.

The Section 35 Order as set out in the devolution Memorandum of Understanding document.UK Government

However, Scottish secretary Alister Jack suggested that a Section 35 Order could be used in order to halt the Bill going for Royal Assent.

He said: “We share the concerns that many people have regarding certain aspects of this Bill and in particular the safety issues for women and children.

“We will look closely at that and also the ramifications for the 2010 Equality Act and other UK wide legislation in the coming weeks – up to and including a Section 35 order stopping the Bill going for Royal Assent if necessary.”

Under the Scotland Act 1998, the UK Government is given the power to intervene in certain cases.

These include if a Bill contains provisions which the secretary of state has “reasonable grounds to believe would be incompatible with any international obligations or the interests of defence or national security”.

Or if the Bill contains provisions which “make modifications of the law as it applies to reserved matters and which the secretary of state has reasonable grounds to believe would have an adverse effect on the operation of the law as it applies to reserved matters”.

If an Order 35 is made, it must identify the provisions in question and state the reasons for making it.

It can be made at any time during the four week period beginning with the passing of the Bill.

Concerns had been raised over the implications of the Bill for those moving between Scotland and the rest of the UK, with a different process in place for those seeking to obtain a gender recognition certificate.

In a statement after the vote on Thursday, Kemi Badenoch, the UK Government’s minister for women and equalities, said the Scottish Government had “not addressed the full implications” of the legislation.

“Today the SNP passed their gender recognition bill, despite strong opposition from even within their own party, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women and Girls and a variety of civic groups in Scotland.

“I share their concerns. Particularly, on this Bill’s impact on the functioning of the Equality Act, which is designed to protect all UK citizens.

“The Scottish Government has not addressed the full implications of their bill – especially on the lives of women and girls.

“The UK Government is now looking at provisions that can prompt reconsideration and allow MSPs to address these issues.”

Scotland’s social justice secretary Shona Robison indicated that the Scottish Government will strongly oppose any move by the UK Government to halt progress of the reforms.

“The Bill as passed is absolutely within the legislative competence and of course was backed by an overwhelming majority with support from all parties,” Robison told BBC’s Good Morning Scotland.

“I think any attempt by the UK Government to undermine what is after all the democratic will of the Scottish Parliament, it will be vigorously contested by the Scottish Government.”

The Scottish Greens said that any attempt by the UK Government to block the Bill would be an “attack on devolution and democracy”.

Maggie Chapman, the party’s equalities spokesperson, said: “Time and again the UK Government has shown total contempt for the LGBTQIA+ community.

“It has knowingly fanned the flames of prejudice and spread the most vicious smears and disinformation.

“Any attempt to block this Bill would be an attack on devolution and democracy and on the rights of trans people.

“The UK Government rightly recognises gender recognition certificates from other countries – they should honour those issued in Scotland.”

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