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Chamber and committees

Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee

Meeting date: Tuesday, April 30, 2024


Gender Representation on Public Boards (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill: Stage 2

The Convener

Our next agenda item is stage 2 proceedings on the Gender Representation on Public Boards (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill. I welcome Shirley-Anne Somerville, the Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, who joins us with her officials. I highlight that officials are not able to speak on the record during these proceedings.

We have no amendments to deal with, but the standing orders oblige us to consider and to formally agree to each section of the bill and the long title. Before we do so, I thank the cabinet secretary for attending and ask whether she wishes to make any comments or whether she is happy for the earlier evidence given to the committee to stand as the official record of the Government’s position.

The Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice (Shirley-Anne Somerville)

I would like to make brief opening remarks, if I may. As we are all aware and as we have discussed previously, the bill seeks to remove the section 2 definition of “woman” from the original Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) Act 2018. That follows the decisions of the inner house of the Court of Session, which were effective from 19 April 2022. The court decided that the section 2 definition was outwith the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament and was not law and, accordingly, had no legal effect. At that time, our counsel told the court that we would remove the redundant definition. If the bill is passed, it will provide clarity by removing that redundant definition from the statute book.

I appreciate that introducing a small bill is unusual. As we have discussed previously, we looked to see whether the bill could be attached to planned legislation, but there was not a suitable vehicle. In addition, the change has to be made through primary legislation.

The bill is simply to clear up the statute book to ensure that it is not misleading. Removing the definition from the statute book will eliminate the possibility of any confusion for readers of the 2018 act who are unaware of the court’s orders made in 2022.

I was pleased to read the committee’s stage 1 report on the bill and that you were satisfied that it is a small, technical fix to clear up the statute book. We are content to recommend that the Parliament agrees to the general principles.

The Convener

No committee member has indicated that they have any questions to put to the cabinet secretary, so we move to the formal stage 2 proceedings.

Sections 1 to 3 agreed to.

Long title agreed to.

That ends stage 2 consideration of the bill.

12:32 Meeting continued in private until 12:34.