Nicola Sturgeon heckled with 'shame on you' during male violence speech

Nicola Sturgeon
Nicola Sturgeon

A protester interrupted a speech by Nicola Sturgeon on tackling male violence against women after the audience was urged not to mention her controversial gender reform plans.

The woman was ejected from the event to commemorate the 30th anniversary of charity Zero Tolerance after telling the First Minister she had “let down vulnerable women in Scotland”.

Critics of Ms Sturgeon's legislation allowing Scots to self-identify their legal gender have said male sexual predators would have a new means of gaining access to women's spaces, such as changing rooms and refuges.

In a lengthy diatribe, the unidentified protester told the First Minister: "You are allowing paedophiles, sex offenders and rapists to self-ID in Scotland and put women at risk.

"Women campaigning for women's rights are not against trans people. Shame on you for letting down vulnerable women in Scotland, not allowed to have their own spaces away from any male."

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Ms Sturgeon apologised to attendees if her presence had caused the disruption and insisted that she did not want to silence criticism of her plans.

She added: “I do not seek to close down anybody’s freedom of speech. It is important that voices are heard.”

But a message posted on the charity's website ahead of her speech said: "We wish to create a safe and supported environment for all our guests and so have asked all participants to support us in this aim by refraining from discussions of the definition of a woman and single sex spaces in relation to the gender recognition act.

"We understand that as feminists we have strong opinions on these subjects. But this is not what this event is about."

JK Rowling among those to speak out

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "It is categorically untrue to suggest the First Minister or Scottish Government officials asked Zero Tolerance to ban or limit discussion in any way whatsoever.”

But JK Rowling, a persistent critic of the reforms, tweeted: "I'd say this is unbelievable, but of course it isn't. When our First Minister attends an event about male violence towards women and girls, the last thing she wants is some uppity woman mentioning the importance of female-only refuges or crisis centres."

Trina Budge, director of For Women Scotland, said: "It's a pretty shocking state of affairs when women are told not to name or talk about the single-sex needs of the very people who this event was supposed to be discussing."

She added: "Thankfully, the elephant in the room was addressed by a woman who won't be quiet. We can't be compelled into silence and sooner or later the government is going to have to address the harm this is causing women."

The Scottish Government's Gender Recognition Reform Bill would allow Scots aged 16 and upwards to self-identify their legal gender without a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria.

It would also cut the time in which someone must live in their “acquired gender” from two years to only six months and lower the age for obtaining a gender recognition certificate from 18 to 16.

Sturgeon defends her vision

Last week, Reem Alsalem, the UN's special rapporteur on violence against women and girls, also warned that the plans were open to abuse from predatory men.

In her speech, Ms Sturgeon said she had a "determination to do whatever I can do to help build a Scotland where women and girls can and do feel safe.”

The First Minister said she would continue working with the sector on “achieving that vision of a country free from violence against women and girls”.

Rachael Hamilton, the Scottish Tory gender reform spokeswoman, said: “Zero Tolerance have done excellent work in Scotland by pushing to tackle men’s violence against women and promoting gender equality. I wish them well on their 30th anniversary.

“However, the decision to prevent guests from discussing women’s safety with the First Minister is alarming. It raises serious questions about why this message to attendees occurred."

Zero Tolerance was approached for comment.