Minister who quit over controversial gender legislation thanks supporters

An MSP who resigned from a ministerial post over her opposition to controversial gender legislation has thanked the “hundreds” of people who have contacted her to offer support.

Ash Regan’s surprise resignation from the position of community safety minister was announced shortly before MSPs began debating the first stage of the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill at the Scottish Parliament on Thursday.

Writing to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Thursday, Ms Regan said: “My conscience will not allow me to vote with the Government at the stage one of the Bill this afternoon.”

In the stage one debate of the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill, the legislation passed by 88 votes to 33, with four abstentions.

The Bill will remove the requirement for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria when seeking a gender recognition certificate (GRC), while also reducing the length of time an applicant must live in their acquired gender from two years to three months, with an additional three-month reflection period.

The minimum age for applying will be reduced from 18 to 16.

Groups representing women and girls have raised concerns over safety if the Bill is passed in its current form, but proponents – including Scottish Government ministers – have rejected the claims.

In a tweet on Saturday evening, Ms Regan said: “I wish to thank the hundreds of constituents and others across Scotland who have contacted me, supporting my stance.

“This is an issue of a deep concern to many and I am touched that some have shared their experiences of trauma with me and their need for safe spaces.”

A total of seven SNP MSPs broke with the whip to vote against the Bill: Stephanie Callaghan, Fergus Ewing, Kenneth Gibson, Ruth Maguire, John Mason, Michelle Thomson and Ms Regan while two SNP MSPs abstained, Annabelle Ewing and Jim Fairlie.

Ms Regan set out her position in her letter to Ms Sturgeon on Thursday, writing: “I have considered the issue of gender recognition reform very carefully over some time.

“I have concluded that my conscience will not allow me to vote with the Government at the stage one of the Bill this afternoon.

“Consequently, I am writing to resign my position in the Scottish Government as minister for community safety.”

Responding to Ms Regan’s resignation, Ms Sturgeon said: “As you are aware, a key requirement of the ministerial code is collective responsibility – a principle essential to effective governance, and which applies across all matters of government policy irrespective of the issue.

“I note that at no stage have you approached me – or indeed the Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice – to raise your concerns about the Gender Recognition Reform Bill or the vote this evening.

“However, in circumstances in which a minister is unable to support the Government, it is the case that the only options available are resignation ahead of the vote or dismissal thereafter.”