Transgender reforms shelved due to coronavirus pandemic

Three Bills will be ditched, including gender recognition reforms, the tourist tax and fox control legislation.

Controversial plans to make it easier for people to change their gender are among legislative proposals being scrapped as the Scottish Government focuses on tackling the coronavirus outbreak.

Parliamentary business minister Graeme Dey said three Bills, including one to give councils the power to introduce a new tourist tax on hotel stays, are being ditched.

He added work is also being halted on planned fox control legislation.

Ministers had been consulting on the draft Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill, which had outlined plans to remove the requirement for trans people to provide medical evidence to a panel before being able to switch gender.

This self-declaration, known as “self ID”, would be able to be done after six months within an acquired gender, rather than the current stipulation of two years.

The legislation was previously put on hold last summer amid controversy over the impact some feared it would have on the protection of single-sex or women-only spaces and services.

The proposed Circular Economy Bill, which was put forward to bring in measures to cut litter and waste, will also now not be introduced in this current parliamentary session, nor will legislation that aimed to make Scotland a “good food nation”.

Dey said while these were “important Bills”, the current coronavirus outbreak’s “unknown timescales and consequences” means the government will “regrettably need to pare back legislation and focus on the immediate term”.

He said ministers will consider if these Bills can be brought in the next parliamentary year, which is due to begin in September.

He told MSPs: “I’m afraid this is an unavoidable consequence of focusing resource on the efforts to deal with the virus.

“As the Covid crisis unfolds there may well be further difficult decisions.

“A revised programme will be published in September as we enter the final year of the parliament.”

Dey added: “I understand that in some cases the need to pause or delay aspects of this legislative programme will deeply disappointing, and for some who have waited a long time to see these reforms there will be a frustration that we can no longer achieve all that we wanted to.

“However, this is a challenging time for all of us, and there will be more challenges ahead.

“This is a pragmatic but essential approach the government is taking.”

Green MSP Alison Johnstone brought forward the legislation on fox hunting.

Fellow Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie said: “Everyone will understand that neither the government nor parliament can carry on with business as usual in midst of the current crisis.

“However, it’s deeply regrettable that progress will be halted when it comes to the environment, people’s right to food, animal protections and not least the rights of trans people, for whom overdue legislative reform has been long promised by all parties.”

He added: “We expect government to deliver on their commitments when possible and appropriate, and will explore with all parties what can be done to achieve more progress.”

Robbie Marsland, director of the League Against Cruel Sports Scotland, said: “We are obviously disappointed there will be no legislation forthcoming in this session to strengthen the current law on fox hunting but fully support the reasoning behind this during the current Covid-19 pandemic.”