Blocking gender Bill is ‘dangerous moment for devolution’, warns Flynn

The UK Government’s decision to block Holyrood’s gender Bill is “a dangerous moment for devolution”, SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn has told the Prime Minister.

During Prime Minister’s Questions in the Commons on Wednesday, Mr Flynn also said Scotland’s democracy is “collateral damage” in what he described as the Conservatives’ attempt to “stoke a culture war against some of the most marginalised people in society”.

Rishi Sunak said the move was not about devolution but about legal protections for “the safety of women and children” across the UK. He encouraged the SNP to work constructively with him on the issue.

Mr Flynn said: “The Scottish Government kept their manifesto promise to the people, and thanks to support from members of all political parties in Holyrood the GRR (Gender Recognition Reform) Bill was passed.

Stephen Flynn
SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn raised the issue during Prime Minister’s Questions (House of Commons/PA)

“Surely in that context the Prime Minister must recognise that it is a dangerous moment for devolution when both he, and indeed the leader of the Opposition, seek to overturn a promise made between Scotland’s politicians and Scotland’s people.”

Mr Sunak responded: “Let me be crystal clear that the decision in this case is centred on the legislation’s consequences for reserved matters, as is laid out in the Scotland Act which established the Scottish Parliament… and at the time supported by the SNP.

“This Bill would have a significant adverse effect on UK-wide equalities matters, and so the Scottish Secretary, with regret, has rightly acted.”

Mr Flynn responded, to mocking noises from the Tory benches, “Let me be crystal clear. This is the Conservative Party seeking to stoke a culture war against some of the most marginalised people in society and Scotland’s democracy is simply collateral damage.

Rishi Sunak
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the UK Government had acted to protect UK-wide legislation (House of Commons/PA)

“On Monday, the UK Government introduced legislation to ban the right to strike, against the express wishes of the Scottish Government. On Tuesday they introduced legislation to overturn the GRR, against the express wishes of the Scottish Government. This evening, they will seek to put in place legislation that rips up thousands of EU protections, against the express wishes of the Scottish Government.

“Are we not now on a slippery slope from devolution to direct rule?”

Mr Sunak said: “No, of course we’re not. This is simply about protecting UK-wide legislation about ensuring the safety of women and children. This is not about the devolution settlement.

“I would urge the honourable gentleman and his party to consider engaging with the UK Government on this Bill as we did before the legislation passed, so that we can find a constructive way forward in the interests of the people of Scotland and the United Kingdom.”