UK government blocks Scotland’s gender reassignment law

UK government blocks Scotland’s gender reassignment law


Scottish law making gender reassignment surgery easier to recognize was blocked by the UK government on Monday 16 January. The Scottish Government called the move a “head-on attack” on local institutions.

A “frontal attack” on local institutions. These are the terms used by the Scottish Independence Government to mark the UK Government’s decision on Monday 16 January to block a Scottish law making gender reassignment easier to recognise.

This text, adopted by the Scottish Parliament on December 22nd after heated debates, envisaged lowering the age required to apply for official recognition of gender reassignment surgery, notably to 16 years.

A vision not shared by UK Government Secretary of State for Scotland Alister Jack, who believed this law could have “opposite effects on the way equality legislation works” across the UK.

After “careful consideration”, the British minister said he had opted for a provision that would make it possible to prevent the text from obtaining the King’s assent and entering into force.

Heading for a showdown with Scotland?

But this lockdown regime, unprecedented in the UK government under Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, has sparked major tensions with Scottish Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

The latter even went so far on Twitter to qualify this act as a “frontal attack” on the “democratically elected Scottish Parliament and its own ability to make decisions”. The Scottish Government “will defend this law” and “the Scottish Parliament”, she added, denouncing a “Westminster veto”.

Several issues have caused problems for the UK Government in this text, notably the fact that the requirement for a medical and psychiatric diagnosis when applying for a gender recognition certificate is to be removed. In addition, the period during which an applicant must live in their acquired gender should be reduced from two years to three months, with an additional three-month reflection period, and the minimum application age should be raised to 16 (from 18 previously) for this certificate .

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Rishi Sunak is risking a legal and political showdown at a time when the Scottish Government was recently denied the right to organize a new independence referendum by the Supreme Court.

“We will defend this law absolutely, solidly and rigorously and with a high degree of confidence,” Nicola Sturgeon said on Monday morning, ahead of central London’s announcement of its position.