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Politics / Court may be the only way to break gender reform ‘deadlock’, Scots Lib Dem leader says

WESTMINSTER blocking Scotland’s gender recognition reform bill is “another example of dysfunctional relations between our two governments”, according to Scottish Liberal Democrats’ leader Alex Cole-Hamilton.

The UK’s veto of the bill is set to result in a court challenge by the Scottish Government.

The aim of the legislation is to make it simpler for people to change their legal gender.

Scottish Lib Dem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton during a visit to Shetland earlier this year.

It was passed in the Scottish Parliament with support from most members of the SNP, Labour, Greens and the Lib Dems, including Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart.

Most Conservative members voted against it, but three went in favour. Meanwhile nine SNP MSPs voted against the bill.

Whilst it was passed by 86 votes to 39, the UK Government used a ‘section 35’ order for the first time to prevent the bill from proceeding to royal assent, claiming it would have an adverse effect on the operation of the Equality Act 2010.

In a statement to Shetland News following confirmation the Scottish Government would challenge the section 35 move, Scottish Lib Dem leader Cole-Hamilton said MSPs voted in “good faith” for the legislation and following assurances from ministers it was legally sound.

“As such it would have been surprising for the government not to defend it in court,” he said.

“There has been a lot of misinformation around this bill. Ultimately it provides a means for a small number of people to make administrative changes to their lives that will allow them to be recognised for who they are without going through a prolonged and intrusive medicalised approach which some find distressing.

“It is disappointing that the UK Government have blocked this reform. Scotland has had its own system of gender recognition in place since 2004, so it is not clear why the new bill presents such a problem.

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“Ultimately, this is another example of dysfunctional relations between our two governments. In a sensible world, the two sides would get their heads together and hammer out a solution.

“The Secretary of State for Scotland has said that this form of gender recognition reform is not acceptable to him. That suggests that there must be some reform that would be acceptable, yet he is still to signal what that alternative looks like.

“A solution could have been reached without further depending divisions that are already harming the trans community – the people that we are trying to help here.

“Scottish Liberal Democrats do not have access to the Scottish Government’s legal advice but it seems that a court bid may be the only way to break the deadlock.”

But former SNP leadership candidate Ash Regan, who quit her role as community safety minister in the Scottish Government over the legislation, said the court challenge will “cost a vast amount of taxpayers money”.

She also tweeted her belief that it will end in a “humiliating defeat” for the Scottish Government.

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