Humza Yousaf should not be ‘bullied’ into appealing Self-ID Gender Laws

Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf
Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf could be be "held to ransom" by his Scottish Green coalition partner, says the Scottish Secretary - Ken Jack/Getty Images Europe

The First Minister should not be “bullied” by the Scottish Greens into appealing against his court defeat over self-ID gender laws, Alister Jack has said.

The Scottish Secretary told MPs it would be a “terrible mistake” for Humza Yousaf to appeal the Court of Session’s ruling last week that the UK Government acted lawfully by blocking the Gender Recognition Reform (GRR) Bill.

Mr Jack noted that several high-profile SNP figures, including Kate Forbes, have broken ranks to urge Mr Yousaf to “let the matter drop”. He said the ruling was “overwhelming” in favour of the UK Government’s position.

But he expressed fear that Mr Yousaf would be “held to ransom” by his Scottish Green coalition partners, who are huge supporters of the self-ID laws and keen for him to appeal.

He told the Commons Scottish affairs committee that the First Minister being “bullied by Patrick Harvie, Lorna Slater and Ross Greer” - three high-profile Green MSPs - would be a “weakness on his behalf and will lead to an utter waste of taxpayers’ money”.

Legal costs could rise to £760,000

Mr Yousaf’s administration has spent more than £230,000 of public money on the legal fight, while Mr Jack confirmed he was looking to recover the UK Government’s £150,000 costs.

The Scottish Secretary said the £380,000 total could double to £760,000 if the First Minister appealed to the Court of Session’s Inner House, then double again if he took the case all the way to the UK Supreme Court.

Mr Jack’s warning the total could come to the “thick end” of £2 million came shortly after Mr Yousaf said his government would consider legal advice over whether to appeal “with urgency and with pace”.

He said no decision had yet been made but acknowledged there was a “narrow window” of only 21 days from last Friday’s ruling for him to lodge an appeal with the court’s Inner House.

Many SNP MPs - who held an away day on Monday - are said to be disgruntled at Mr Yousaf’s failure to draw a line under the issue by ruling out an appeal immediately.

It is understood they consider the GRR Bill to be politically toxic and their opposition to an appeal is shared by some of the First Minister’s inner circle.

The GRR Bill would allow Scots to change their legal gender by simply signing a statutory declaration, dropping the requirement for a formal medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria.

It would also drastically lower the time period in which someone must live in their “acquired gender” from two years to as little as six months and allow 16 and 17-year-olds to obtain gender recognition certificates (GRCs) for the first time.

Undermines protection for women

Mr Jack made an order under Section 35 of the Scotland Act to prevent the legislation getting Royal Assent - the first time this power had ever been used.

He argued the legislation undermined UK-wide protections for women, including the sanctity of female-only safe spaces.

There was a huge public backlash against the reforms after trans predator Isla Bryson was initially sent to a women’s prison having been convicted of two rapes.

Succeeding Ms Sturgeon as First Minister, Mr Yousaf pressed ahead with a petition for judicial review of the decision despite legal experts warning he had little chance of success.

In a damning ruling last week, Lady Haldane rejected claims made by the Scottish Government that Mr Jack had acted irrationally and could not justify his concern the legislation would undermine UK-wide protections for women.

She also threw out claims by Ms Sturgeon and Mr Yousaf that the veto power demonstrated that Westminster could overrule any Holyrood legislation it wished, saying it required “certain preconditions being fulfilled”.

But, asked about an appeal, the First Minister said: “We’ve not come to a decision yet because we have to consider, as I say, important issues like the legal advice. And as soon as we have an update to give Parliament, we’ll make sure they’re informed in due course.”