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Scotland passes gender recognition reform in ‘victory for trans and all human rights’

Scotland is the first part of the UK to introduce these reforms.

By Alastair James

The trans flag
Scotland has voted to approve reforms for gender recognition (Image: Unsplash)

Scotland has become the first part of the UK to approve self-identification for trans people.

The Gender Recognition Reform Scotland bill was supported by 86 Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) with 39 against.

After the bill was passed there was applause in the parliament chamber among MSPs and in the public viewing gallery. There are also reports of shouting from people against the bill.

The changes will make it easier for people to change their legal gender by removing the requirement for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria to obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC)

People will also have to declare they’ve been living as their “acquired gender” for three months (six if they are 16 or 17) before applying rather than two years, and that they intend to live as their acquired gender. There will also be a three-month reflection period. The age at which people can apply for a GRC is also being lowered from 18 to 16.

The bill is expected to come into effect in 2023. Sadly, the process remains the same for trans people living in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

The Gender Recognition Act 2004 sets out the current means of obtaining a GRC.

Celebrating the news the LGBTQ charity Stonewall said: “This is a victory for trans and all human rights in Scotland”

Ahead of Thursday’s vote the Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said she would “never apologise for trying to spread equality, not reduce it”.

Similarly, the MSP Shona Robison, who led the bill, said that “Trans rights are not in competition with women’s rights, and as so often before, we can improve things for everyone when those discriminated against act as allies, not opponents.”

Thursday’s vote follows two days of debate at Holyrood on over 150 amendments. The vote was originally meant to be held on Wednesday but was delayed due to the Scottish Conservatives tabling amendments as well as protestors disrupting proceedings.

This led to some accusations against the Scottish Conservatives of filibustering on both Tuesday and Wednesday.

As delays continued on Wednesday (21 December) the SNP MSP, Emma Roddick tweeted: “Let’s be clear: the Government did not timetable a debate to last into the wee hours of the next day. It timetabled a debate within a normal timescale and the Scottish Tories blatantly and shamelessly filibustered all afternoon and evening then complained about the time.”

As a result, the debate ended up finishing after midnight on Thursday morning.

The Scottish government moved ahead with its plans for reforms after the UK Government dropped them in 2020 following a lengthy consultation.

At the time the then Equalities Minister, Liz Truss, said self-ID was “not the top priority for transgender people.” Instead, she announced plans to move the gender recognition process online and to cut the personal cost from £140 to a “nominal fee” (£5)

Earlier this month the UK government did not rule out challenging Scotland’s law in court but said no decisions had been made, as per the BBC. It’s understood the UK Equalities Minister, Kemi Badenoch, has expressed concerns about the legislation and is also understood to have met Shona Robison recently.

On Thursday, the broadcaster reported the Scotland Secretary, Alister Jack, as saying the UK government “shares the concerns that many people have regarding certain aspects of this Bill, and in particular the safety issues for women and children”.

He also said the government would examine how the new bill impacts the 2010 Equality Act and could stop the bill by blocking Royal Assent.