The UK Government’s decision to block gender reforms in Scotland does not have “an iota of good faith”, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said on Monday that the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill would be blocked using – for the first time – Section 35 of the Scotland Act.
The decision has sparked concern over its impact on devolution and further intensified the debate on trans rights that raged for most of 2022 in the Scottish Parliament ahead of the Bill being passed by MSPs in December.
Speaking to the BBC before Mr Jack explained the UK Government’s reasons for the move in the House of Commons, the First Minister questioned the motivation for the decision.
“There’s not an iota of good faith on the part of the UK Government on this issue,” she said.
“I’m very, very certain there’s no good faith here.
“If there had been these concerns, and I still don’t understand the basis for these concerns about the interaction with the Equality Act, (they) would have been raised at a much, much earlier stage through some of the formal processes that are in existence.”
Opponents of the legislation have said it will impact on the Equality Act, particularly around single-sex spaces, but Ms Sturgeon and her Government repeatedly rejected that position – and the First Minister added there is “no justification” for blocking the Bill.
She said the legislation would “inevitably end up in court”.
Ms Sturgeon said: “I can say categorically the Scottish Government will vigorously defend this legislation, but in doing so we will be vigorously defending something else, and that is the institution of the Scottish Parliament, the ability of MSPs – democratically elected – to legislate in areas of our competence.
“In short, we’ll be defending Scottish democracy.”
She went on to say the UK Government is “hostile” to the Scottish Parliament.
She vowed to “stand up” for both trans people and for the Scottish Parliament, adding that she is “more concerned today than I’ve ever been before” about Holyrood’s future.
Ms Sturgeon, along with other supporters of the legislation, have classed the decision as an attack on devolution, but the UK Government stressed Section 35 is a provision of the legislation that created the Scottish Parliament.