Scottish government abandons plans over gender self-identification following backlash

Scottish government abandons plans over gender self-identification following backlash

Joan McAlpine

The Scottish government has abandoned plans that would have allowed anyone over 16 to change their legal gender within a day or brief waiting period.

Some feminists have described the move as a “major victory” for women’s rights.

New feminist groups emerged to fight the plans after they were backed by Scotland’s main women’s organisation – 90 per cent of whose funding comes from the Scottish government.

Opponents of the proposals said they put women at risk by allowing male-bodied people access to changing rooms as well as rape crisis centres and women’s prisons.

Trans lobbyists, however, said there is “no evidence” for this claim.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the concerns were “misplaced” but she was forced to shelve the plans after ministerial colleagues, MPs and MSPs rebelled.

SNP MSP Joan McAlpine played a key part in opposing the plans. She said trans activists had attempted to prevent discussion because “their arguments wouldn’t stand up to debate”.

To politicians south of the border also facing abuse for similar reasons, she said: “I know there are people in Westminster who feel like me but don’t speak up. Feel the fear and do it anyway.”

Ministers had said they thought the current law, which requires applicants who wish to change gender to obtain a doctor’s diagnosis and live in their new gender role for two years to be “intrusive and onerous”.

The Sunday Times reports that Scotland’s prison service, which operates a de facto self-identification policy, is to review it after a whistleblower claimed a small number of trans prisoners in Scotland’s female jails were responsible for a “quite horrific” number of incidents, among them threats of rape.

Earlier this year, Katie Dolatowski, 18, who was born male was sent to live in a women-only hostel after sexually assaulting a 10-year-old girl.

Nicola Williams, of the group Fair Play for Women, said: “From being virtually non-existent a year ago the debate in Scotland is now more vigorous than anywhere else in the UK.

“Women in Scotland have done incredible things, they’re being listened to and it’s given us the ammunition to challenge down here. It’s a major victory and the tide is turning.”

Leya Terra, of Women and Girls in Scotland, one of groups that came about to fight the changes, said: “A big part of what happened later was people weren’t aware of the consultation. It wasn’t aimed at women. Then the UK consultation happened, there was more media coverage, and a lot of people in Scotland found out that we’d already had ours.”

Engender, which describes itself as “Scotland’s feminist policy and advocacy organisation”, said in its response to the consultation that it had “very few specific comments to make” and “instead of formulating our own response to the detail of the proposals, we would commend for consideration Scottish Trans Alliance’s submission”.

Engender received an income last year of £335,000, of which £301,000 came from the Scottish government.

Scottish Trans Alliance, which helped to devise the policy and supported it in a consultation response had an income last year of £466,000.

Of this sum, £427,000 came from the Scottish government.

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