Gender reform bill: Scottish Government abandons £230,000 fight against Westminster

The Scottish Government has accepted the court's ruling on the gender reforms, which were accused of endangering the safety and rights of women and girls. Credit: PA

Scotland's controversial gender recognition reforms have been branded as a waste of taxpayers' money as the SNP confirmed it will abandon any further legal challenge.

The Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill was passed by Nicola Sturgeon's government last year before being blocked by the UK Government - which argued it could have an adverse impact on equality legislation across the UK.

Since Scotland Secretary Alister Jack made the unprecedented move to block the policy - which made it easier for transgender people to change sex - the Scottish government has spent over £230,000 of taxpayers' money trying to fight it.

While the social justice secretary has confirmed the Scottish Government will accept the court ruling on their gender reform legislation, Westminster has said they want the costs accrued fighting the legal battle reimbursed. 

The social justice secretary confirmed the Scottish government will drop any further legal challenge on Wednesday 20 December. Credit: PA

Alister Jack, MP for Dumfries and Galloway, said: “I welcome the Scottish Government’s acceptance of the Court’s judgment, which upheld my decision to prevent their gender recognition legislation from becoming law.

“The Scottish Government chose to pursue this litigation in spite of the cost to the taxpayer. 

"These resources would have been better spent addressing the priorities of people in Scotland - such as growing the economy, cutting NHS waiting lists and improving our children’s education.

“The UK Government now intends to lodge an application with the Court seeking our expenses in defending this matter.”

Last month it was ruled Westminster was acting legally when it prevented the Scottish Bill from becoming law.

Social justice secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville confirmed the SNP will not appeal the court’s ruling on Wednesday 20 December, ending the Bill’s chances of becoming law.

The proposed legislation attempted to simplify the process for transgender people to obtain a gender recognition certificate (GRC) and more easily officially change their legally recognised sex. It also lowered the age limit to do so from 18 to 16.

On the UK government's decision to veto the policy, Ms Somerville said: "Regardless of people’s views and opinions on gender recognition, that is a very worrying place for our Parliament to be.

“We will therefore focus on working with an incoming UK government which we hope will have more respect for devolution and is willing to work together, even when sometimes we disagree.”

Women's rights campaigners had accused the Scottish government of endangering the safety and rights of women and girls with the policy, while former SNP leader Alec Salmond has described the reforms as the "worst legislation in the history of devolution".

Women for Scotland, a campaign group which opposes gender reform, has celebrated the SNP decision to drop the case. Credit: STV

Women for Scotland, a campaign group which opposes a policy which allows individuals to legally change sex by means of self-declaration, has celebrated the SNP's decision to drop the case.

Reacting to the news, Susan Smith, For Women Scotland, said: "It's a much better situation than the one we were in last Christmas when Nicola Sturgeon was very much the grinch who stole women's Christmas.

"Now it seems that Lady Haldane has given us a rather nice present and the Scottish Government is not going to challenge it.

"The Scottish Government knew there was going to be cross-border issues and were told this repeatedly and they chose to ignore it.

"So to pretend now that this is about an issue with devolution, when at the very heart of the devolution settlement there has to be an arrangement whereby some matters are reserved."

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