Watch: SNP minister heckled on Question Time over ‘excruciating’ trans comments

Jenny Gilruth provoked loud groans from a Glasgow BBC crowd after she repeatedly dodged questions over the sex of Isla Bryson
Jenny Gilruth provoked loud groans from a Glasgow BBC crowd after she repeatedly dodged questions over the sex of Isla Bryson

An SNP politician was heckled by the Question Time audience after she followed Nicola Sturgeon’s lead by refusing to say if a transgender rapist is a man or a woman.

Jenny Gilruth, a transport minister at Holyrood, provoked groans from the Glasgow audience at the BBC programme after she repeatedly dodged questions over the sex of Isla Bryson, previously Adam Graham, who was initially placed in a female jail after being convicted of two rapes.

Ms Gilruth, a former teacher, had been challenged by Ella Whelan, a journalist and author, to say whether she believed Bryson was male or female after she repeatedly referred to the predator as “that individual” rather than he or she.

The MSP said she believed Bryson was “a rapist” and agreed with her party leader that she “didn’t know enough about the individual in question” to say whether they were male or female.

Audience members in Scotland’s largest city shouted “you haven’t” when Ms Gilruth  claimed to have answered the question about Bryson’s gender.

Given a further opportunity to respond by Fiona Bruce, the Question Time host, following the hostile response, Ms Gilruth said: “This individual is a rapist, that is the most important thing.” The answer provoked more groans from the audience.

Ms Gilruth, who is married to the former Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale, voted in favour of Ms Sturgeon’s plan to allow Scots to change their legal gender by signing a declaration. They would not have had to provide any evidence they were genuinely transgender.

The self-ID proposals have been blocked by the UK Government.

Ms Gilruth said earlier on the show: “That individual is a rapist, that individual has committed a heinous crime against a woman and that individual deserves to be in jail for a very, very long time.”

Rachael Hamilton, the equalities spokeswoman for the Scottish Tories, said the minister had “tied herself in knots”, adding: “This was an excruciating experience for Jenny Gilruth on Question Time.

“She parroted Nicola Sturgeon’s lines from earlier in the day at First Minister’s Questions and simply could not answer this straightforward question from a fellow panelist. The audience in Nicola Sturgeon’s home city made their feelings known loud and clear at one of her ministers dodging this question.

“It is astonishing that the SNP government from the top down appear to accept Adam Graham should be considered a woman, simply because he says he is, regardless of his crimes.”

The Scottish Prison Service policy that led to Bryson initially being placed in a female prison before the 31-year-old was moved following a public backlash, follows the same principles as the SNP’s self-identification stance.

Ms Sturgeon repeatedly dismissed fears that allowing men to become legally female without any checks would put women and girls at risk, only for the claims to be undermined by the Bryson case.

The SNP administration’s official policy states: “It is the view of the Scottish government that trans women are women.”

Legal experts have said Bryson would have been able to become legally female had the self-ID system been in force, which would have made it harder to exclude the rapist from women’s spaces.

Ms Whelan insisted women would not be “forced to say things that we know aren’t true”, adding that men could not “turn into women by stating it”.