UK Government's bid to block gender reform bill branded ‘irrational’

The petition to overturn Alister Jack’s blocking of the Gender Recognition Reform Bill was published on Wednesday.

UK Government ‘irrational’ to block Scotland’s gender reform bill, social justice secretary argues STV News

The Scottish Government has published its legal arguments in its bid to overturn the UK Government’s block of gender reforms.

Ministers have filed a challenge to Alister Jack’s blocking of the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill with the Court of Session, seeking to overturn the Section 35 order issued in January.

In a push for “transparency”, according to social justice secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville, the full 22-page petition was published on Wednesday.

It argues that concerns raised by Scottish secretary Alister Jack are “irrational” and said there was an absence of any supporting evidence for his claims.

The Scottish Government has challenged the order on four counts: that Jack made a “material error of law”, that his concerns about the safeguards in the Bill were “irrelevant” to the order’s making and that his reasons were “inadequate”, which would make the order “unlawful”.

The Bill will make it easier for trans people to obtain legal recognition of their acquired gender by dropping the need for a medical diagnosis.

Opponents of the Bill have raised concerns it could impact on the safety of women and girls.

The UK Government claims the legislation would impact on UK-wide equalities protections.

Humza Yousaf confirmed he would challenge the order if he received legal advice that doing so had the chance to be successful.

The petition was released just hours after Somerville made a statement to MSPs, telling them the government had “no option” but to challenge the order.

She also refused to publish the legal advice given, after being pressed by Scottish Conservative MSP Donald Cameron.

“As the member will well know, there is a convention not to publish legal advice,” she said.

“It’s exactly the same position the UK Government will take as well as they move forward with this, and I highly doubt that Donald Cameron will be suggesting that the UK Government publish their legal advice.”

The ministerial code asserts that legal advice should not be published except in extraordinary circumstances.

A spokeswoman for the UK Government said: “The UK Government will robustly defend the decision to prevent the Scottish Government’s Gender Recognition Reform Bill from becoming law.

“The Scottish secretary made the order under Section 35 of the Scotland Act 1998 after thorough and careful consideration of all the relevant advice and the policy implications.

“He was very clear in the accompanying statement of reasons how the Bill would have an adverse effect on reserved matters, including on the operation of the law as it applies to Great Britain-wide equalities protections.

“The use of the power is entirely within the devolution settlement as set out from its inception, with cross-party support.”

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