Scottish Labour accused of backing gender self-ID law

Labour's manifesto in Scotland, launched by leader Anas Sarwar, changes wording on gender
Labour's manifesto in Scotland, launched by leader Anas Sarwar, changes wording on gender - Iain Masterton / Alamy Live News

Scottish Labour has been accused of trying to revive Nicola Sturgeon’s self-ID laws after its general election manifesto did not include the UK party’s policy of needing a medical diagnosis to change gender.

The UK Labour manifesto published last week pledged to simplify the process for changing legal gender “whilst retaining the need for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria from a specialist doctor”.

But the Scottish Labour prospectus, unveiled by Anas Sarwar in Edinburgh on Tuesday, removed this wording and merely promised to “modernise, simplify and reform” the procedure.

A party spokesman said the change reflected the views of Scottish Labour members that the process needed to be “de-medicalised”.

The Scottish manifesto pledged to ensure that new gender recognition laws north of the border were compliant with the UK Equality Act, including “the rights and protections it affords women.”

However, feminist campaigners said the absence of any medical diagnosis meant that the plan was “completely and utterly self-ID”.

Mr Sarwar whipped Labour MSPs to support Ms Sturgeon’s Gender Recognition Reform (GRR) Bill and all but a few voted for it when it was passed by Holyrood in Dec 2022.

However, there was a huge public backlash after trans predator Isla Bryson was sent initially to a women’s prison after being convicted of two rapes.

Although Bryson had not legally changed gender, Scottish Prison Service (SPS) guidance at the time stated that trans criminals should be sent to the jail that matched their self-identified gender that they were living in prior to their conviction.

Rishi Sunak’s Government then stepped in to veto the Bill over concerns that it undermined UK-wide women’s rights, including the sanctity of safe spaces.

Marion Calder, the director of For Women Scotland (FWS), said: “It appears that Scottish Labour has not learnt anything from the past several years and are determined to pursue self-ID, which has been opposed by the general public.

“This is self-ID – it is either a medical condition or it is not. Labour say they are for the many, not the few, but women are the many and they are not listening to them.”

Meghan Gallacher, the Scottish Tory deputy leader, said: “Scottish Labour have clearly learned nothing from the Isla Bryson controversy.

“By inexplicably doubling down on their gender self-ID policy, they are putting the safety of women and girls at risk and arrogantly dismissing the vast majority of Scots who oppose it.”

Sir Keir Starmer had pledged to introduce a similar system but last year declared that a woman is an “adult female” and he did not believe that the self-ID policy was “the right way forward”.

He said that Labour had had the “chance to reflect” on what happened in Scotland. The UK manifesto then retained the requirement for a medical diagnosis.

However, the Scottish Labour Party manifesto merely pledged to “modernise, simplify, and reform the intrusive and outdated gender recognition law”.

It added: “As this is devolved but also interacts with reserved legislation, Scottish Labour believes that any legislation in Scotland must provide dignity for transgender people and be consistent with the Equality Act.”

In contrast, the Tories have made a general election pledge to transfer responsibility for creating new gender recognition laws in Scotland from Holyrood to Westminster, thereby preventing the reintroduction of self-ID north of the border.

The manifesto launch also exposed another split between UK and Scottish Labour over scrapping the two-child benefit cap. This blocks applicants from claiming Universal Credit or Child Tax Credit for a third child.

Scottish Labour has previously stated it wanted the cap abolished but there was no mention of this in the manifesto after Sir Keir refused to scrap it.

Mr Sarwar said he remained opposed to the cap and denied he had “staged a climbdown” after being forced to accept the UK party line.

He said: “The honest reality is after 14 years of Tory economic carnage, we will not be able to do everything we want to do as fast as we want to do.”

Tommy Sheppard, the SNP’s candidate for Edinburgh East and Musselburgh, said: “This copy-paste job reminds us of how little influence the branch office has, because even when it differs from the version produced by their London bosses’, we know Scottish Labour MPs will always take their marching orders from whips in Westminster.”

A Scottish Labour spokesman said: “The wording in our manifesto reflects the fact that addressing this issue requires two grown-up governments working together.

“Labour is united in our aim to deliver reform, and Scottish Labour’s manifesto recognises that the devolution settlement allows for different approaches within that.”