Scottish Government response to Cass review branded 'sop' to Greens to protect Bute House Agreement

SNP ministers have been accused of playing down a landmark report into gender identity services for young people to avoid conflict with the Scottish Greens.

Jenni Minto, the public health minister, finally made a statement today on the impact of the Cass review, which was published on April 10.

The SNP MSP said it was "vitally important that these recommendations are carefully considered to assess to what extent they are relevant to the approach to gender identity healthcare in Scotland".

Minto announced a new team led by the Chief Medical Officer would examine the Cass review and make any recommendations to how it would apply in Scotland."

But Labour described the statement as a "sop" to the Scottish Greens who have failed to endorse the report.

Patrick Harvie refused five times this week to say whether he accepted the Cass review's conclusions.

Dr Hilary Cass's review looked at gender identity services for under-18s in NHS England.

It found gender medicine to be operating on "shaky foundations" when it came to the evidence for medical treatment like prescribing hormones to pause puberty or to transition to the opposite sex.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and NHS Lothian last week confirmed a pause on new prescriptions for puberty hormone suppressants for young people with gender dysphoria.

NHS Scotland is reviewing gender services for both adults and children. New protocols for adults have been delayed but are expected to be published before the summer.

The Scottish Government has said it is now developing a separate pathway for under-18s.

Minto told MSPs: "Ministers do not make clinical decisions in any field of medicine, and gender identity services is no exception. I fully support health board autonomy in clinical decision making."

She added: "It’s important to note that in Scotland, we are already making progress in a number of aspects of gender identity healthcare highlighted in the Cass Review.

"So let me be clear – work on this has already begun, and I will remain engaged throughout.

"For example, Dr Cass highlights the need to address increased capacity in services. The Scottish Government has committed to invest £9 million to support the improvement of NHS Gender Identity Healthcare in Scotland.

"That funding will be delivered over a five-year period, so that national improvement work already underway will be embedded and built upon."

Jackie Baillie, Scottish Labour health spokeswoman, asked Minto if she agreed with Patrick Harvie's assessment of the Cass review but received no response.

Baillie said: "The Cass report is a four-year-long piece of work that is evidence-based, informed by expert clinicians and by those with lived-in experience. So it deserves to be treated seriously.

"Yet this statement feels more like a sop to the Greens to keep the Bute House Agreement alive."

Baillie added: "Dr Cass has been discussing her report with clinicians and government in Scotland since 2022.

"Instead of acting, the Scottish Government appears to be setting-up yet another working group. We already have the National Gender Identity Healthcare Reference Group.

"Is the minister by-passing this with something new?"

Minto replied: "There are 32 recommendations in an almost 400-page report and we working through that at the right speed to ensure we make the right decisions."

To sign up to the Daily Record Politics newsletter, click here