Sturgeon: Block on gender reform law shows Westminster is worst of both worlds

The UK Government’s decision to block controversial gender reform legislation in Scotland has demonstrated that Westminster is the “worst of both worlds”, the First Minister has said.

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack confirmed he would make a Section 35 order to prevent the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill from going forward for royal assent.

In a keynote address at the Business for Scotland annual dinner on Thursday evening, Nicola Sturgeon said the “full-frontal assault” on devolution strengthens the case for Scottish independence.

The First Minister said: “This week, we’ve entered a new and more dangerous phase for devolution.

“The Tories have broken their cover. The stealth attacks have been joined by a full-frontal assault – the decision of the Tory government to strike down a law clearly within devolved competence which was passed overwhelmingly in the Scottish Parliament, and which was supported by MSPs from all parties.”

Gender Recognition Reform Bill
People take part in a demonstration for trans rights outside the UK Government Office at Queen Elizabeth House in Edinburgh (Jane Barlow/PA)

She went onto accuse Mr Jack of acting like a “Governor-General” in deciding which Scottish law to veto.

Ms Sturgeon added: “Westminster control means the worst of both worlds – a weaker Scottish Parliament and a weaker economy.

“In fact, the result of decades of Westminster economic mismanagement is now becoming clear, not just for Scotland but for the UK as a whole.”

She said the only way to escape “damaging, tightened Westminster control” is by Scotland becoming independent.

She said: “In an independent Scotland, like all other countries, there are no guarantees. Our success will depend on the decisions we make.

“But if we look around Europe we can take heart and inspiration. Comparable independent countries to Scotland such as Finland, Denmark and Ireland have higher national incomes per head than the UK.

“And they aren’t just wealthier, they are fairer too. They have higher productivity and lower poverty.

“So the question is with all our resources and talent: why not Scotland?”

Earlier on Thursday, Mr Jack told journalists he would not revoke the order blocking the legislation.

The law – which would speed up and simplify the process for trans people to obtain a gender recognition certificate (GRC) – would have an “adverse effect” on the operation of equalities legislation in the UK, he said.

It is the first time the provision of the Scotland Act has been used to block Holyrood-backed legislation, with Mr Jack saying he did not take the decision “at all lightly”.

He added: “This is entirely the legal opinion, the constitutional situation, and a piece of legislation that has adverse impacts on other legislation within the UK.”