The British government will block a Scottish law that makes it easier to change sex before the law. She fears it will conflict with a law that applies to the whole United Kingdom.
It is the first time the British government has vetoed a Scottish law. In Scotland, the reaction is furious.
Last month, the Scottish Parliament passed the Gender Recognition Bill, making it easier for people to change their official gender. The bill received a great majority of 86 to 39 in the Scottish Parliament. Only the Conservatives voted against it.
The law removes the need for a medical diagnosis of “gender dysphoria” (put: deep dissatisfaction with your biological sex). The minimum age will also be lowered from 18 to 16 years.
According to the Scottish government, the current system is too complex and far-reaching, making it even more difficult for an already vulnerable group. Scotland is the first country in the United Kingdom to introduce such a law, but it is not unique: Ireland and Denmark, among others, have also introduced similar rules.
But the British government is now putting a stop to that. She is blocking the law because she fears it will conflict with the legal protection of citizens’ equality (the so-called “Equality Act” throughout the United Kingdom). In addition, she fears “significant complications” if two recognition systems exist in the UK. The British government is also reportedly concerned about women’s safety. Malicious men could, for example, penetrate areas reserved for women, such as changing rooms, it sounds like there.
The UK government has often blocked Scottish laws, mainly because it believed that Scottish MPs were overstepping their powers.
But it is the first time a Scottish law has been withdrawn over fears it will clash with British law. This is because the British government uses the so-called “section 35 order”, a veto power from the Scotland Act of 1998, allowing it to veto Scotland’s laws.
Scottish Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon is furious. She calls the British blockade a “frontal attack on the Scottish Parliament”. She stressed that the Scottish government would challenge the decision, fearing such a veto would be the first of many. Sturgeon also says she will exhaust all legal resources to defend the law. She also argues that London has no reason to intervene because this law does not risk anything constitutional.
“Especially the fact that London emphasizes its ultimate control over the issue, the Scots find it offensive,” says Katrien Vanderschoot, who follows the United Kingdom for VRT NWS. “That is especially sensitive because the British Supreme Court has rejected Scottish plans to call a new independence referendum for the second time.”
“It really is a matter of principle,” says Vanderschoot. “Some believe this will jeopardize further federalization of the United Kingdom and London will exacerbate tensions.”