Meeting of the Parliament (Hybrid) [Draft]
Meeting date: Thursday, December 22, 2022
Agenda: Presiding Officer’s Rulings, General Question Time, First Minister’s Question Time, Point of Order, Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill, Business Motion, Portfolio Question Time, Point of Order, Climate Change Committee Reports, Decision Time, Maternity Services in Moray
- Presiding Officer’s Rulings
- General Question Time
- First Minister’s Question Time
- Point of Order
- Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill
- Business Motion
- Portfolio Question Time
- Point of Order
- Climate Change Committee Reports
- Decision Time
- Maternity Services in Moray
Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill
The next item of business is a debate on motion S6M-07312, in the name of Shona Robison, on the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill.12:52
This stage 3 debate is the culmination of a six-year process of consultation and policy development that started with a commitment in the 2016 fairer Scotland action plan to reform the Gender Recognition Act 2004 and to remove barriers to trans people obtaining legal recognition and accessing their human rights. The process included two of the largest consultations ever undertaken by the Scottish Government, with more than 30,000 responses in total.
When I took over responsibility for this policy, I committed to listening to all views and seeking consensus where possible. I have met a wide range of organisations and individuals, both supportive and with concerns about the proposals. I know that the Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee has done the same, and I thank it for its careful scrutiny of the bill, its considered stage 1 report and its work at stage 2 and since.
I also want to express my deep gratitude to the parliamentary staff for their hard work throughout this process. [Applause.] I would also like to thank members of all parties, with whom I have had productive discussions throughout the bill’s passage, leading to agreement on constructive amendments. At stage 2, 47 amendments were agreed to, 43 were not agreed to and 60 were not moved. I took the same approach ahead of stage 3, undertaking a series of meetings with members, and again agreed further amendments to strengthen the bill.
I have commented at every stage on the importance of the tone of this discussion, and I remain grateful to members who have maintained a respectful tone, even where differing views are genuinely held.
Finally, I express my sincere gratitude to Scottish Government staff, including my private office staff, but in particular I thank the small but dedicated team who have worked tirelessly on the bill. [Applause.]
I also say a particularly big thanks to Parliament staff for their long shift over the past two nights, and I am grateful to them all. They deserve a very happy Christmas and a much-needed break.
Presiding Officer, never has so much been said about so few. The Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill reforms the process that has been in place for 18 years for trans men and women to obtain a gender recognition certificate—a GRC. Like the Marriage and Civil Partnerships (Scotland) Act 2014, it is an important step towards creating a more equal Scotland where LGBT people are valued, included and empowered.
The bill provides a new and improved route to legal recognition in Scotland, but the existing process will continue to be available across the whole of the United Kingdom. The bill does not remove the ability of someone who lives in Scotland to apply under the existing GRC process; it will still apply in law in the rest of the UK once the bill’s provisions come into force, as the requirements in the 2004 act are not restrictive based on where someone lives.
If the United Kingdom Government chooses not to recognise GRCs issued in Scotland, it will be particularly important that the existing system remains open to people in Scotland—for example, someone with an English birth certificate who lives in Scotland must have a route to be able to update that birth certificate in line with their acquired gender. I add, though, that I hope that the UK Government does not choose to take that step.
If we are repealing parts of the Gender Recognition Act 2004 in the schedule, does that not have the effect of removing the access that the cabinet secretary talks about?
No; both routes will be open to people once the legislation is enacted.
Following her visit to the UK, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights commented in her report, which was published two weeks ago, that she had observed the
“emergence of an increasingly harsh political and public discourse against trans people in the UK”,
and she expressed concerns about
“narratives that represent trans people as a threat to others”.
I hope that that will change, but it is regrettable that some of the discussion and some of the media coverage relating to the bill has focused so little on the reforms and their positive impact for trans people in Scotland.
We know from extensive consultation and the evidence heard at stage 1 that the current system can have an adverse impact due the requirement for a medical diagnosis and the intrusive and lengthy process. Those barriers prevent many trans people from applying for a GRC. We know that, of an estimated half a million trans people in the UK, only around 6,000 have ever been able to obtain a GRC in the past 18 years that the current system has been in place.
The bill will make the process more respectful of the privacy and dignity of trans men and women. It makes no change to the effect of the GRC, which will remain as it has been for the past 18 years. Legal gender recognition mostly affects aspects of our private lives and would enable a trans person to obtain an updated birth certificate. That will benefit trans people at important moments throughout their lives—for example, allowing them to have consistent documentation when they start a new job, enabling them to marry in the gender in which they live and, importantly, enabling them have their death recorded in the gender in which they lived.
Although the bill will make it easier for trans people to access their existing rights and go about their lives with confidence that they are recognised under the law, it will continue to be a substantial and significant legal process, which is reflected in the requirement to make a statutory declaration. It is a criminal offence to knowingly make a false statutory declaration or to knowingly make a false application.
Those safeguards have been strengthened during the parliamentary passage of the bill in the creation of a statutory aggravator, where the circumstances of the offence are connected to fraudulently obtaining a GRC, and a proportionate and risk-based approach to applications from those charged or convicted of certain offences that is based on assessment and management of risk in individual cases.
I know that some continue to have concerns about the potential impact on women and girls, and I have listened carefully to those who have expressed concerns. I understand the root of those concerns—I know from my own experience and from many years of working to improve women’s rights that women and girls still face inequality and an increased risk of harm in Scotland today, and that, throughout the world, women are fighting to keep their hard-won reproductive rights from being eroded, often by powerful men.
That is why this Government does so much to tackle violence against women and girls from abusive, predatory and controlling men.
Will the cabinet secretary give way?
Not just now.
That is why we prioritise the work of the equally safe strategy, the delivery of which has resulted in changes in legislation through the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018, criminalising coercive control, increased funding to front-line services and a drive towards prevention.
If, as the cabinet secretary says, the Government has the rights and protections of women and girls at the heart of what it does, why have so many of her Scottish National Party back-bench colleagues broken the whip?
Members of all parties have differing views. I could ask the member why some of her own party do not agree with her position on the bill. People have listened to the arguments and they have come to their own conclusions on these matters.
No, thank you.
I have also stated clearly that the bill does not change public policy around the provision of single-sex spaces and services. We support the provision of single-sex services. We are clear—I have always been clear—that all organisations must take account of the Equality Act 2010 to ensure that everyone’s rights are protected.
Will the cabinet secretary take an intervention?
Not just now.
The bill does not in any way modify the Equality Act 2010, and I supported the amendment, which was agreed to, that puts that beyond doubt in the bill.
I have done my best to allay anxieties, but I know that some people’s opposition to the reforms will not change based on what I say. I hope that the words of the United Nations independent expert, who has spent years researching the issues, will give further assurance. He said:
“there is no credible evidence supporting the submission that requirements currently in place in Scotland for legal gender recognition are effective or efficacious safeguards to prevent sexual and gender-based violence, or that these requirements are even remotely connected to it”.
Trans rights are not in competition with women’s rights. As has so often been the case before, we can improve things for everyone when those discriminated against act as allies, not opponents.
Will the minister take an intervention?
Will the minister take an intervention?
I will take a brief intervention from Daniel Johnson.
As it stands under the Equality Act 2010, a trans person can be excluded from a single-sex space on the basis that they are transgender, and therefore essentially on the basis of their physical difference. Will she reiterate explicitly for the record that that will continue to be the case after the passage of the bill, as that is an important point for those who have concerns?
I am grateful to the member for the opportunity to put on the record once again that, as I have said so many times, the exceptions in the Equality Act 2010 remain and trans women can be excluded from those spaces if it is proportionate and in line with the guidance and with the provisions that are contained in the 2010 act. I cannot be any clearer than that. I hope that that gives the member the reassurance that he is looking for.
To conclude, I want to repeat that the bill represents an important moment for trans people in Scotland. It addresses the deficiencies of the current system for legal recognition, which are not in line with international best practice and which place disproportionate barriers in the way of trans people accessing their human rights.
Will the minister give way?
I am very grateful to the minister for introducing this bill to reform legal gender recognition for trans men and women. However, we must also recognise that there are trans people who identify as non-binary—as neither men nor women. I seek a commitment from the minister that further work into non-binary recognition will be carried out by the Scottish Government in this parliamentary session.
In conclusion, please.
As we said in the committee at stage 2, that further work is under way.
The bill is a further step towards making Scotland a more inclusive and fair society where LGBT people feel safe, respected and included.
I want to share some personal testimony from someone who gave evidence to the committee, if that is okay, Presiding Officer. They said:
“I have known who I am since I was a child ... I tried several times to apply”
for a GRC
“but each time didn’t have what was needed. I couldn’t afford it the first time. The second time I didn’t have the proof. Then my partner had a stroke. We wanted to marry. We were together for 20 years but couldn’t do it because I didn’t have a GRC. He died in 2013 and I lost everything because we weren’t married. I had no legal right to everything that we had built up together, including his pension”.
They went on to say that, if the process in this bill had been in place then, it would have
“allowed me just to be ordinary, which is all we ever wanted”.
Let me end by saying that every party in the chamber except one made a clear commitment at the last Scottish election to the reforms that are set out in the bill. At the election before that, all parties did. Members from all parties in the chamber voted to support the general principles of the bill at stage 1. At this final stage, I urge all members to vote in favour of these important reforms and for the bill.
That the Parliament agrees that the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill be passed.13:06
I echo the words of the cabinet secretary and put on the record my thanks to all parliamentary staff, including the very hard-working bill team.
It is with regret that I believe that the bill has shown the Parliament at its worst. The debate on the bill has been sorely missing compromise by the Government for women across Scotland. The Government has not sought to achieve consensus, nor has it made a serious attempt to bring people together. Women have real fears about the consequences of the bill, but they have been ignored. The First Minister has dismissed justified and legitimate concerns as “not valid”.
I want to begin by taking the opposite approach and focusing initially on where we can mostly agree. I can endorse much of what the Government and MSPs across the chamber say when it comes to improving the process for trans people. I believe in the principle that nobody in society should suffer because of who they are, and that everyone should be free to go about their lives as they please, within the scope of the law.
The administrative process of changing gender should be simple for trans people. It should not be overly intrusive, burdensome or in any way demeaning. I am sure that the majority of the Scottish public would agree on those points, but they do not agree with the reforms in the bill. The public are not on side with these changes. A clear majority is against the legislation, as has been shown in recent polls. Nicola Sturgeon has not brought the people of Scotland with her.
In the rush to make the process a little easier for trans people, the Government is making it easier for criminal men to attack women. That is the problem here.
Does Rachael Hamilton agree that the amendments that I lodged at stage 3 mean that men on the sexual offences register will be risk assessed so that they cannot apply for a GRC? The amendments have the effect that Russell Findlay wanted to achieve at stage 2.
I do not agree that Gillian Martin’s amendments go far enough; they should have been more robust. The Parliament should have voted for Michelle Thomson’s amendments, which were supported by my colleague Russell Findlay, to ensure that we do not allow sex offenders to get into single-sex spaces for women.
The public do not agree with the reforms in the bill; they are not on side with these changes. In the rush to make the process a little easier for trans people, the Government is making it easier for criminal men to attack women. That is the problem that I am trying to get Gillian Martin to identify. Clearly, the Parliament is split on that issue.
The bill will make it vastly easier to obtain a gender recognition certificate, but it will do that not only for trans people but for violent males, too. It will let criminals exploit the system, which will put women at risk in all kinds of places, but it will endanger women especially at shelters for victims of domestic and sexual abuse.
Will the member take an intervention?
Not at the moment, because I would like to make a little bit of progress, thank you.
The UN special rapporteur on violence against women and girls, Reem Alsalem, raised many serious concerns about the bill. She was right to say that the bill is a threat to women in all their diversity. As she made clear, dangerous men are a threat not only to biological women but to trans women, too.
Today, the Scottish Conservatives are talking not just about protecting women’s safety but about protecting everyone’s safety; society as a whole is at risk from the bill. Although most of us in Scotland are good, decent and reasonable people, rapists and sex offenders are not. It is ignorant in the extreme to believe that they will not take advantage of the loopholes that are ripe for exploitation.
As J K Rowling wrote recently,
“Nobody but the very naive can fail to be aware that predatory men are capable of going to great lengths to gain access to victims.”
These legitimate worries cannot be dismissed as scaremongering. That is an insult to every survivor of sexual assault and domestic abuse. Women do not have a phobia of trans people; we have a phobia of violent men. Nobody needs to scaremonger about the appalling levels of violence that women face; there is no need for exaggeration. Violence against women is the unfortunate harsh reality of our society. I ask every MSP here today: how can we allow a bill that risks the safety of women in Scotland to pass? [Interruption.]
We will hear Ms Hamilton.
The Parliament has to think about the message that that will send to young women such as my daughters. Warm words about women’s rights are often recited in the chamber, but I am no longer sure that they are meant.
My colleague Russell Findlay’s amendment that would have prevented those on the sex offenders register from obtaining a GRC was shamefully voted down by a very small majority.
Will the member take an intervention?
Not just now, thank you.
We have been shown countless times by those giving evidence that predatory sex offenders will exploit Nicola Sturgeon’s gender self-ID experiment. Russell Findlay’s amendment would have had no impact on trans people; it would simply have protected the lives of women across Scotland from violent sexual offenders. How could MSPs vote against that? It is indefensible.
Throughout this process, while Scottish Conservative MSPs have worked constructively with MSPs of all parties to try to improve the bill, the coalition Government has not engaged in good faith.
I thank the member for taking an intervention, which is on the point that she has just made. Rachael Hamilton is on the Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee with me, and I wonder why the Conservatives have not tried to put out the overwhelming evidence that we heard during the committee meetings that some of the concerns that she has raised have not come to fruition elsewhere. Why have the Conservatives not tried to show the public that the evidence that we heard was overwhelming?
I very much respect my colleague Fulton MacGregor. We sit on the committee together and work very collegiately together, but he does not seem to recognise that media reports suggest that people are getting access to single-sex spaces, particularly in prisons. We did hear that.
As I said, throughout this process, we have worked constructively.
Will the member take an intervention?
No, thank you.
The bill has been railroaded through the Parliament, and debate has been shut down. In my opinion, the process has been a complete sham. The evidence that was taken by the committee was limited, and the range of experts called on was narrow and selective. It is unbelievable that, in this democracy, we heard evidence from the UN expert on violence against women and girls only on Monday night—hours before the bill was debated in the Parliament. The timetable for debate and scrutiny has been far too short.
Will the member give way?
Please make your intervention very brief.
I wonder whether the member is aware that key human rights and women’s organisations have written to Reem Alsalem to express support for the bill and to highlight that they were not consulted before her letter was published. Those organisations include Amnesty International Scotland, Engender, JustRight Scotland, the Scottish Women’s Rights Centre, Scottish Women’s Aid and Rape Crisis Scotland. Does the member think that it would have been better for those organisations also to have been consulted by the UN rapporteur?
Please bring your remarks to a conclusion, Ms Hamilton.
Reem Alsalem is the UN special rapporteur for violence against women and girls. Did the cabinet secretary read the letter from all the women’s organisations that expressed great concern about the Scottish Government’s bill?
We rapidly debated difficult amendments that deserved proper consideration, and there has been no good explanation of why the legislation must pass in 2022—three days before Christmas—when we could spend 2023 fixing its flaws. The result is a sub-par shoddy piece of legislation that is not fit to pass into law.
The Presiding Officer is asking me to conclude my remarks. The bill will be a legacy issue for the First Minister—but not in the way that she hopes, because J K Rowling won’t wheesht, Johann Lamont won’t wheesht and Ash Regan won’t wheesht. Women won’t wheesht. [Interruption.]
Let us hear Ms Hamilton.
The Government has not listened, but our voices will be heard.13:16
I will open my remarks by paying tribute to all the people with whom we have engaged throughout the process. I thank them and our committee clerks and Parliament staff, who have supported us, as well as the cleaners, catering and security staff, who have put in quite the shift to facilitate us being here so late this week to debate this legislation.
I became an MSP because I wanted to change people’s lives. Today is one of those rare moments as an MSP where we all have a real opportunity to improve lives and directly tackle inequality. Being recognised for who you are, without suspicion, is hard. Being expected to rely on medical interference where it is not needed or wanted, to somehow prove who you are and who you know you are, is demeaning and hurtful, and requiring someone else, who does not even know you, to confirm your identity, is belittling.
The pressure to conform to a society that does not quite understand your experience is hard. It is exhausting. It means that you second-guess your instincts and worry that people think that you should not be how you are or get what you get. You feel the need to justify who you are in a way that people who do not share your characteristics do not have to. As a disabled person, I am only too familiar with that world and that experience. I guess that is why I have always felt a connection with trans people’s desire to be recognised for who they are, for the current process for doing that to be reformed, and for society to accept them and support them to be their best selves without barriers, additional costs or medicalisation.
The thing about stigma and discrimination is that their characteristics are almost always the same. Whether your characteristics are those of a disabled person, an older person, a woman, a person of colour, a lesbian, a gay person or a trans person, you are held back, you are questioned, you lose out, you earn less and people treat you differently. You internalise that and agonise over every microaggression; ultimately, that eats away at your sense of self, purpose and potential. That is why I believe strongly that the reform that we will vote for today has been a long time in coming and why changing the current onerous, lengthy and invasive process of legal gender recognition has always been so important to me.
The current system is outdated and out of touch with the progressive Scotland that we aim to be. It forces trans people to endure trauma and intrusion just to have their gender recognised in law. Throughout the scrutiny of the bill, I have said many times that the drawn-out process and the Scottish Government’s delays in bringing it forward—as well as its failure to provide the strong leadership that is necessary to quash misconceptions and allay fears—has led to a vacuum, which has allowed fear and ignorance to prosper. It has led to a debate that has framed the rights of trans people as a threat to the rights of women and created a toxic environment that has let down both causes and brought hurt and upset to those people who spend their lives fighting for both of them.
We are having this discussion because there is a clear injustice and we have the power to fix it. That is what devolution is for. In all the evidence that I have heard—and I have heard a lot of it—it has been clear to me that too many trans people feel that, under the current process, it is not possible for them to be recognised in law as the gender that they identify with. The current system is so bad that, too often, trans people are forced to leave themselves open to discrimination in all aspects of their life; they face constant fear of being outed and are treated differently because their identity documents are not consistent with their lived experience. That is why I have been so keen to make sure that the legislation is the best that it can be.
I cannot understate the importance of getting that right. The legislation has to do what it says on the tin and tear down some of the most disproportionate barriers that are denying trans people the dignity of being recognised for who they are. That is why members of the Labour Party have spent so much time scrutinising the bill and why we have done that thoroughly.
I echo the member’s point that the bill needs to be as good as it can be. However, yesterday, Jackie Baillie, Pauline McNeill, Carol Mochan and Daniel Johnson articulated some very clear concerns about the shortcomings with the drafting of the legislation, which were not addressed during the amending stage. Can the member help me understand why she will vote for a bill that her colleagues believe to be so flawed in its drafting?
I was expecting such an intervention and will address it in a moment.
We recognise that there are some concerns about single-sex spaces, age, and the potential abuse of the process, and we have spent hours looking at the evidence in detail, debating the arguments and coming up with solutions. We have met with representatives of trans people, women, young people, human rights experts, gender identity experts, data experts, members of Parliament in other countries who have legislated on the matter, academics, faith leaders, people with lived experience of transition and detransition, sporting bodies, legal experts, campaign groups and individuals across the spectrum of the issues that are covered by the bill. We have listened to concerns and sought the best possible evidence available to us about all of those concerns.
In areas where we thought that the bill needed to be improved, such as the collection of robust data, clarity of statutory declarations, clarification about the primacy of the Equality Act 2010 and the protection of single-sex spaces, the importance of supporting guidance and inclusion of asylum seekers, protection against vexatious allegations, and reviews of the impact of the new system, we lodged amendments and worked with members across the chamber to secure improvements to the bill. We did that so that when we move to vote on the bill in its final form today, we are able to vote to deliver the change that trans people need and deserve, ensuring their dignity and recognition in law, while also ensuring that the process is one that the public can have confidence in.
Trans people have been waiting far too long for those changes. They deserve nothing less than good legislation that allows them to be recognised for who they are. That is why Scottish Labour was determined to ensure that the bill did just that and ensure that it meets its objectives and delivers the change that is needed.
Trans rights are human rights—they are inalienable, indivisible and interdependent. Human rights are our rights not because we are women, trans, gay, disabled or black, but because we are human, and our society and our Parliament have a legal obligation to uphold those rights. For trans people, being recognised in law for who they are is fundamental to that. In committee and throughout my campaigning on equality and human rights, I have heard—and I am in no doubt—that the process of transitioning is dehumanising, intrusive, offensive, expensive and lengthy, and that it must change. I and Scottish Labour will therefore vote for the bill today. We have always been at the forefront of equality and human rights, and we will always defend and protect them.13:22
I rise for the Scottish Liberal Democrats. When the vote takes place, I and my party will vote as one for the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill to pass into law. It is a commitment that we made in our election manifestos for the past two Holyrood elections, it honours the party policy that was made by our members at our conference, and it is the right thing to do. We support reform because we believe that the prolonged, intrusive and medicalised approach that is currently in place causes trauma to trans people, who simply want to have their gender recognised on the documents that they are required to hold. Ultimately, the decision about a person’s identity should lie with that person, and not a panel of strangers whom they have never met.
We are not pioneers in those reforms. More than 350 million people now live in countries where gender recognition is obtained through a process of self-ID. Those countries are following international best practice that has been laid out by the Council of Europe and the United Nations.
Opponents to reform expressed real concern about access to single-sex spaces and women’s safety, which I will address directly. Violence against women is a matter of huge importance to me and my party, which is why I established a commission on men’s violence at our conference in October. However, I am clear that no provisions in the bill on changes to gender recognition create a new or additional threat to women. Put simply, making it easier to obtain a gender recognition certificate does not change who can, or is likely to, access single-sex spaces.
No single-sex or protected space currently requires the presentation of a gender recognition certificate or a birth certificate for entry. Indeed, neither is seen as a valid form of identification. Instead, trained staff will undertake a dynamic risk assessment as to whether it is appropriate to grant admission to that person. That goes for prisons as well. Nothing in the provisions that we pass today will change that.
Many countries have gone before us and there is no evidential base for the abuse of the gender recognition systems in those countries by predatory men. Nor have those countries sought to repeal their legislation. Indeed, in Ireland, where the reform has been in place for the past seven years, ministers have the power to revoke a certificate if information comes to light that would have barred the holder from obtaining one in the first place. No certificate has ever been revoked.
In addition, the reforms are not about the age at which young people can surgically transition or the administration of puberty blockers. That is certainly an important and live debate but it is not this debate. If we credit 16-year-olds with the mental capacity to make many life-changing decisions in our society, including marriage and armed service, we should trust them and credit them with the mental capacity to understand who they are and seek to have that identity recognised in the documents that the Parliament and Government require them to possess.
This law has been a long time coming. The original work behind the scrutiny of the legislation began some time before the pandemic. It was a commitment made by most of the parties in the chamber seven years ago. The bill has taken longer to transit Parliament than any legislation that I can remember. To those who say that we have rushed the bill and that it is being rammed through, I say that we have not and they are wrong—it is far from it. In many ways, I am frustrated by the delay because it has not only stalled reform but has allowed a good deal of heat and hate to enter our considerations. I am heart saddened by that. It has divided families, communities and political parties.
My party is no exception. I am aware that there are members of the Scottish Liberal Democrats who are not persuaded by the need for the reforms and will struggle with the position of our parliamentary party. I say to them that I am a Lib Dem in large part because we are a plurality. The discussion will continue—of that there is no doubt—and although our party policy on gender recognition and support for the trans and non-binary community is clear and established by our membership, that does not mean that I will turn away or shut down those who still have questions and concerns.
I wish that I could offer comfort and reassurance to people who fear the reforms that we will pass today. I believe that, in time, that comfort and reassurance will come. I am confident that, through the monitoring that we have built into the bill, over time, we will build an evidential base that will help to dispel that fear in its entirety.
Today, we bring the reforms blinking into the light. We right a wrong that has existed in our statute books for nearly 20 years and we offer a new route to trans people who wish to have their gender recognised in the documents that underpin the legal architecture of their lives. That route is finally free from trauma and is steeped in dignity.13:28
It is a huge honour to speak in the debate. I will support this important bill, which seeks to remove unnecessary and disproportionate barriers to legal recognition and help to transform the lives of many trans people.
At the Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee, we heard that people who had applied for a GRC found the existing process to be upsetting and invasive. As the cabinet secretary said, we also know that many people choose not to seek a GRC at all due to the concerns about the onerous nature of the process.
One witness told us that they were put off by the process, concerned about the costs and evidence requirements and worried about having to out themselves to a panel of doctors and lawyers who had never met them. Vic Valentine of the Scottish Trans Alliance described the requirements to provide a diagnosis of gender dysphoria as “pathologising and stigmatising”. We also heard that the existing process takes years—it is backward and is a bureaucratic nightmare that is unnecessarily traumatising for trans people.
I have been inundated with correspondence from people who have asked me to support the bill. That is unsurprising, given that Glasgow Kelvin is such a rich, intersectional and diverse constituency. Does Joe FitzPatrick agree that those of us who do not understand the experience of gender incongruence should listen to those who do, and that streamlining the process for obtaining a GRC will help to create a kinder system that treats people with dignity and gives them the autonomy that they deserve, which will allow them to enjoy their life as their whole, authentic self?
In this whole debate, if Scotland comes out of today a little bit kinder, that will be a really good step forward. Kaukab Stewart’s points about the existing process are absolutely true.
Some of the evidence was really difficult for committee members to listen to—we were hearing about the trauma that people had to put up with. One witness put it to us that
“the panel’s purpose is unnecessary”
and that the process is bureaucratic. They quite rightly said:
“I can validate my own identity.”
I know who I am, and they know who they are. That is one reason why we need to be kinder and accept people.
We heard about the damaging effects of not being able to obtain a GRC under the current process. The cabinet secretary quoted one of the most powerful testimonies that we heard in our stage 1 deliberations; I will not be surprised if it appears in more than a couple of contributions today. I remind members that the witness involved could not marry their partner before their partner died, which meant their pension rights being lost and their home being put at risk. They told us:
“It is like being given a life sentence without committing a crime. We feel constantly under attack. Things are really difficult for trans people.”
They concluded by saying that
“the reforms are badly needed.”
We asked the witness what we could do—if the proposals that are in the bill had been in place, what might have made a difference? They told us:
“It would have allowed me just to be ordinary, which is all we ever wanted.”
Joe FitzPatrick makes really important points. If he will indulge me for a few seconds, I want to pick out one email. A constituent who is a trans woman wrote to me:
“I hope the day my death certificate is eventually issued comes in the far future but when it does, I want it to be accurate of how I live my life and of who I am”.
She said that she wants trans people to get married with pride, to be able to rest in peace and to finally stop being the target of a manufactured culture war. I read that out because we do not have any trans people sitting in members’ seats in the chamber—perhaps some are in the public gallery.
Does Joe FitzPatrick agree with my constituent’s remarks? I hope that, one day, trans people will sit in the chamber to vote on rights and legislation that will affect them directly.
I say to members that we do not actually have a lot of time in hand. Interventions should therefore be brief and will be absorbed in a member’s allocated time.
Monica Lennon makes important points, which the cabinet secretary will reflect on. When we hear about the important times in people’s lives and the idea of not being able to marry as yourself or—oh my God—the pain of thinking about being buried as someone else, oh my goodness, how could we not want to fix that, so that people can live their lives and be themselves at the happiest times such as marriage and at the saddest times?
It is not just this Parliament that is legislating on the subject. We have heard from the Scottish Human Rights Commission, from Volker Türk, who is the UN high commissioner for human rights, and from the Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights, Dunja Mijatovic, that this is the correct way to go forward.
I see that my speaking time is coming to a close. I have set out in their own words the considerable challenges that trans people face under the current GRC process and the ways in which that process is failing to provide trans people with the dignity and privacy that they are entitled to in accordance with their human rights—rights that others take for granted.
Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the UN independent expert on sexual orientation and gender identity, put it well when he set out our responsibility to uphold human rights for all. He said:
“Mention has been made of trans rights, but there is no such thing as trans rights or gay rights or lesbian rights; there are human rights of people who are gay, human rights of people who are lesbian and human rights of people who are trans.”—[Official Report, Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee, 21 June 2022; c 44.]
This bill will remove unnecessary and disproportionate barriers to legal gender recognition and will help to transform the lives of many trans people. That is why I will be supporting the bill today.
Thank you, Mr FitzPatrick.
I call Brian Whittle, who is joining us remotely. Time has been allocated in accordance with the request from the Scottish Conservatives, so Mr Whittle has up to four minutes.13:35
I want to make clear that my opposition to the bill is not opposition to trans rights. Amendments were never about restricting any trans rights; they were about preventing predatory males from exploiting badly drafted law—a point that was disgracefully conflated by some members in the debate.
As members of this Parliament, we have a responsibility to make good law, we have a responsibility to anticipate the consequences of the changes to society that we impart and we have a responsibility to protect the rights of all those we serve. Members cannot claim to be making Scotland more equal while pushing forward with legislation that risks putting the rights of one group above those of another.
Laws do not exist in a vacuum, independent of one another, but that is the fantasy on which many of the Scottish Government’s justifications for its approach are based. Passing a law that makes it substantially faster and less difficult to change gender is certain to have wider implications across society and we should at least try to understand those implications before we pass the law. However, time and again, we have been told by the SNP and the Greens—and others—that that is not the case. More worryingly, not only are those concerns dismissed, but those expressing them have found themselves ostracised, castigated and condemned for having them.
From the very start of this process, the First Minister has told us that she would listen to those with concerns. Sadly, I think that her actions and words suggest that she leads a Government with selective hearing. However, why should we expect anything else from the SNP under Nicola Sturgeon, a First Minister who will happily say that she detests me and everything that I stand for because of the party of which I am a member, without having so much as a five-minute conversation with me about my views? All views are welcome in Scotland until Nicola Sturgeon decides that they are not.
The Parliament is supposed to be a place of debate; debate means sometimes having your views challenged and answering difficult questions because, by thinking about those questions, we gain greater understanding and can work to build consensus.
Throughout this process, I have listened: I have listened to the stories of trans people failed by the system who have experienced enormous personal struggles just to be who they are; I have listened to the campaign groups desperate for reform and those with concerns; I have listened to the women’s groups who fear the erosion of their hard-won rights and recognition; I have listened to female athletes who are worried that they might no longer have a level playing field on which to compete; I have listened to coaches in Scotland and around the world working with trans athletes and intersex women; and I have listened to mental health professionals, medics, lawyers, and so many others, who all have their own ideas, views and suggestions.
In all those conversations, not once did I encounter hatred or fear of trans people; nor did I encounter anyone with a desire to deny them the human rights that we all share. What I did hear was genuine concern about the wider implications and possible unintended consequences of the proposal. That is what I sought to highlight and address—sadly with little success.
My efforts to amend the legislation and my opposition to the bill in its current form are born not of malice but of frustration. We cannot create equality by inadvertently creating inequality elsewhere in our society. Inequalities cause harm, and the bill, as drafted, will harm women, girls and trans people alike. Members across the chamber have raised many logical and real-life examples, backed by experts in their fields, of the consequences of the bill, and we must pay attention.
I will leave my fellow members with a quote from Albert Einstein, who said: “Blind belief in authority is the enemy of truth.” Having blind faith in anyone is dangerous; passing legislation on the basis of “Trust me, I am the First Minister” cannot and should not be how this Parliament addresses the challenges that we face.
Today, I will not blindly follow the First Minister or her Government when they say that this legislation will not cause harm to trans people, women and girls; I cannot support the bill as it is written.13:39
It is an absolute honour and a privilege to be standing in the chamber on the cusp of making history. I am feeling overcome with pride at the opportunity that has been afforded to me, and I hope that I can do justice to a very small but incredibly important piece of legislation for a very small but incredibly important group of people.
As we discuss the legislation, the most regrettable thing is that we have no out trans people in the chamber having their say on it; instead, they are having to put their faith in people with their own unique lived experience to represent them as they watch from the public gallery and at home.
I hope that what I have done in this Parliament and on the Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee has given reassurance to trans people that there are many out there who do care, and that we are the majority. As a woman, I know that I would feel injustice at my rights being debated without representation, which is why I have ensured that trans people’s voices have been heard throughout this debate from the start.
Recently, I hosted an open meeting—a trans living library—in the Scottish Parliament, which I invited very special guests to attend to openly engage with members from across the chamber, so that they could help to shape legislation for themselves and truly have their voices heard within these walls. It was also an opportunity for MSPs to drop in and informally chat with trans people about their lives and to gain an understanding of what we, as parliamentarians, could do to improve their lives. The meeting was a prime opportunity to learn about trans people directly from trans people.
Russ was one of those special guests. He is my dear friend. Members might be aware that Russ is a trans man whom I met outside Parliament when we held the stage 1 debate. I had written my speech only the night before, in which I used Russ’s life experience as an example. It was an accidental meeting; perhaps, as some suggested, the stars did align. I have kept in contact with him, and I ask my colleagues to please watch his video on YouTube in which he talks openly about his experience of conversion practices. He talks about how he endured electroconvulsive therapy.
Russ transitioned at the age of 60, after knowing that he was a trans man for decades. He is now 68 and still does not have a GRC because, he states:
“I don’t want to have to go through a process like that again, so when it comes to gender recognition and getting a GRC, I’m not going to do that to myself under the current system. I am not again going to take the risk of having to present my case to some people, in this case, people I have never met, who don’t know what it’s like, what my life has been like. I am not going to give them that power to decide who I am. We are not asking for very much—we are just asking to be normal human beings. That’s it, really.”
Trans people have long existed; they are not a product of society, mental health problems or neurodiverse conditions. They are because they are, just as we are. They are a valid part of the LGBT community who strive to remove stigma and be accepted without harm in society, and to be afforded opportunities that we are afforded without prejudice. That is what this bill is for; that is what this bill can help to achieve. The bill can simply make the process of obtaining a birth certificate that corresponds with who they are easy to access without the interference of anyone else, just as we have that right. To provide a right to enter employment without being exposed and to go on to further education with the comfort that they are recognised for who they are, and to have a fundamental right to whole autonomy—that is what we are doing here today.
I welcome the bill, and I hope that, when our children and our children’s children look back through the history books, they can see that, in Scotland in 2022, we decided to join many other countries in best practice to support our most marginalised; we advocated for the rights of our LGBT community; and we made Scotland that little bit better to live in and that little bit more equal.
We either get on board with progression or we get out of the way. I was elected to make people’s lives better, which is exactly what I am doing here today. I welcome the bill, and I will whole-heartedly vote for it.13:44
I am pleased to have the opportunity to contribute to this important debate as we reach the concluding stage of the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill. Before I start my substantive contribution, I join colleagues in putting on the record my thanks to you, Deputy Presiding Officer, and to the other Deputy Presiding Officer, the Presiding Officer and all the staff of the Parliament, who have worked tirelessly throughout the drafting, scrutinising and amendment of the legislation. Without their commitment and endeavour through long hours, we members of the Parliament would not have been able to debate and vote on this piece of legislation today. Their contribution is greatly appreciated by me, and we have already heard from colleagues across the chamber in that regard.
I begin by commenting on the tone and tenor of our stage 3 debate thus far, as we have sought to scrutinise and consider the final stage of the legislation. In my stage 1 contribution, I made comment on the wider debate in Scotland over many years, which has all too often been too toxic and too angry, with a lack of space to find respectful disagreement. For the most part, our debate in this place has been conducted in a vein of respect and, often, respectful disagreement, both in the chamber and in private, and I am grateful to many colleagues for that.
However, I was dismayed at points in our debate last night to hear contributions from members which I found to fall short of the basic standards of respect that we would all expect, particularly the respect that should be afforded to some of the most marginalised people in our society. Indeed, I fully appreciate that watching some of those contributions will have been hard for many trans people, who have seen their lives discussed and pored over in a way that has often seemed technical and detached from the very human reality of this debate. As a gay man, I have also found some of that—and, indeed, the rhetoric over the wider debate—reminiscent of things that I have had to listen to all my life and find deeply offensive.
I also found some of the discussions last night around faith difficult, particularly as a person of faith. We need to recognise that no one person has a monopoly on faith or belief due to one particular strand of opinion. As I said at stage 1, this is about respecting the humanity and dignity of everyone. As I said in the summation of my amendments on Tuesday night, there have been contributions from colleagues where we may fundamentally disagree, but they have been sincerely held views, respectfully offered, and I want to meet those colleagues with that respect. I hope that we will all reflect on all of that as we move forward.
Since the beginning of the debate, I have supported reforming the process to obtain a gender recognition certificate by demedicalising and simplifying it in line with the commitments made in the manifesto that I stood on for election to this Parliament. I have, however, with my colleagues on the Labour benches, sought to scrutinise the proposed legislation and to change it to make improvements that can command the confidence of trans people and the wider public.
Will the member take an intervention?
Just let me make some progress.
The bill has been changed by colleagues on this side of the chamber placing the Equality Act 2010 on the face of the bill and adding to the Government’s statutory obligations to carry out robust data collection and reviews of the bill’s implementation, so that its impact can be assessed and understood. As we have heard, amendments from Gillian Martin, supported by Jamie Greene, have allowed a pause to an individual’s GRC application if they are subject to a sexual harm prevention order or a sexual offences order.
On that exact point, earlier, I asked Pam Duncan-Glancy why she supports something that her colleagues said yesterday is fundamentally flawed. She responded by saying, as I think the member is saying, that amendments were proposed by Labour to make the bill better. However, all the significant amendments, including Jackie Baillie’s amendments 127 and 130, fell yesterday, so why is the member voting for something that his colleagues believe to be so flawed?
I thank Liam Kerr for his intervention. I will let Jackie Baillie and others speak for themselves. I have outlined the changes that I have seen made to the bill, which I do not think are insignificant, as he described them. I am disappointed by that characterisation. Colleagues will speak for themselves and it is up to them to explain their views.
Returning to the point about Gillian Martin and Jamie Greene’s amendment, I reiterate, for the avoidance of doubt, that Scottish Labour is of the view that there is absolutely no link at all between sexual predators and the trans community. It is important to put that, once again, on the record.
The bill has also been changed to extend the time period for applications from 16 and 17-year-olds and to introduce requirements for young applicants to seek support. I understand and respect that there are people who do not believe that those changes go far enough, and people who fundamentally disagree and believe that legislation should not proceed at all. That is why it is crucial that monitoring and reporting amendments that were secured by Jackie Baillie and others, along with commitments by the cabinet secretary to issue guidance, are extremely important.
However, I believe that, in essence, the bill is about improving the lives of trans people by reforming an outdated system of obtaining a new GRC—a system that is degrading and not fit for purpose. I believe that the bill will deliver on the principal objective of delivering a simplified demedicalised process for trans people to legally change their gender.
As a gay man, I know what it feels like to be different, to not understand why and to be frightened that you will never be understood or accepted. I know what it feels like to be told that you are going through a phase or that there is something fundamentally wrong with you. I know what it feels like to be mocked and bullied because of who you are.
I grew up in the Roman Catholic faith—a faith in which I remain—in a village in the west of Scotland. My teenage years were not easy, as I had to continually come out as gay. I know that colleagues have heard me speak about that before in the chamber. Being shaped by that experience leads me to know most acutely that our identity is precious. It is fundamental to who we are. There is nothing that hurts more than someone consistently querying who you are or demonising you for who you are. I know that the bill will have a positive impact on the lives of trans people the length and breadth of Scotland.
I am conscious of the time—
Yes, Mr O’Kane.
—so I will conclude on this point. Trans people are not sick. They are not ill and they are not confused. They are people who deserve to have their identity recorded in law, enabling them to live their life fully. I support that end today.13:51
I have been sitting on the Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee since it began taking evidence on the bill. I have heard, seen and felt at first hand the impact that the bill is already having on women. As I have said many times, good legislation is about balance. No legislation should curb the rights of one group to the enjoyment of others, but the bill does exactly that.
Although improvement to the process of gender recognition would be beneficial for trans people, it cannot be at the expense of women and girls, vulnerable individuals and children who require the protection of the law. Those rights are now in peril and they are on the cusp of being eroded in Scotland.
A lot has been said about the lack of scrutiny that the bill has received during its passage through Parliament. However, it says it all that, as members of the Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee, we were still taking evidence on the bill the day before stage 3 consideration was due to begin. That was followed by the decision to try to push through more than 150 amendments in just two sitting days. That is no way to legislate. The process has not only brought shame on this Parliament; it is an affront to democracy.
It is no secret that I disagree with the key principles of the bill, such as the lowering of the age, the removal of the requirement for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria and the removal of the gender recognition panel. However, I oppose it with the best intentions. Time and time again, the Scottish Government asks those in opposition to the bill, “Where’s the evidence?” Is women raising concerns not evidence enough? Is a United Nations special rapporteur with a mandate on preventing violence against women and girls raising concerns not evidence enough? As far as the Scottish Government is concerned, that clearly is not enough evidence.
It is clear from the Scottish Government’s dismissal of women’s groups and the way that the bill has been railroaded through Parliament that none of the concerns that have been raised about the safety of women and children were ever going to be taken into consideration. While the Government pleaded that there was no evidence of self-ID being abused or self-ID having a wider impact, it rejected many amendments that sought to collect, monitor and review accurate data to evaluate whether that happens.
As parliamentarians, we have received thousands of emails, cards and cries for help from women, girls, parents and religious groups, but they have undoubtedly fallen on the deaf ears of our ideologically driven SNP-Green Government. The Government could not even bring itself to support an amendment that would prevent sex offenders from obtaining a GRC.
I stand here today with a heavy heart. I am disappointed in the parliamentary process and in the Parliament itself, which made a mockery of democracy on Tuesday evening.
I urge all members to reflect on the countless constructive amendments that were lodged in good faith, only to be voted down regardless. I urge members to vote against a bill that betrays the rights of one group for the convenience of another. I ask members to consider whether they want to be remembered as people who threw caution to the wind when it came to safe spaces for women and girls, who opened up single-sex spaces to abuse by predatory males and who gave sex offenders the right to change their gender based on self-declaration over the safety of women and girls.
Please conclude, Ms Gosal.
If members do not want to be remembered like that, I suggest that they vote against the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill at stage 3. I will definitely be voting against this flawed and shoddy legislation.13:56
I thank all the people who have made today possible: everyone who engaged in the consultations and scrutiny processes, my committee colleagues and everyone in the Parliament—MSPs and staff—who has contributed to this important bill. Most of all, I thank trans people, who have put up with delay, abuse, loss and grief. Today is for them.
I stand here this afternoon with a multitude of mixed feelings: relief, anticipation, frustration and sorrow. I feel sorrow that the six years of work on the bill—it has been arduous work, which was undergone most of all by trans people themselves—has taken place in an increasingly toxic environment and a miasma of intensifying myths about the bill, about gender recognition, about wider aspects of trans people’s lives and about the motivations of those of us who stand in solidarity and love as their unshakeable allies.
Many of the myths are not only mistaken but entirely irrelevant to the bill that is before us today. A gender recognition certificate is not a route to medical transition, nor vice versa. They are entirely separate processes. Indeed, demedicalisation is a key principle of the bill. There is no place for those conspiracy theories of big pharma and child mutilation. They are not only bitterly ironic in the context of trans healthcare, with its underinvestment and multiyear waiting lists; they are false in outline and detail, deliberately disseminated to mislead and muddy the waters.
I stand in frustration at the gaps in the bill, which our best endeavours have not yet been able to fill. Sex is not, as some would like to imagine, binary and immutable. That is why, as soon as possible, I am determined, and the Scottish Greens are determined, to achieve comprehensive gender recognition for non-binary people in Scotland—they are not forgotten.
There is a second gap: those under 16, for whom formal gender recognition would be appropriate and beneficial. I will continue to work for that, for trans children everywhere.
I am saddened that the amendments that I lodged at stage 2 were not supported, including those on the removal of waiting times and of the new criminal offence of making a false declaration; those clarifying and limiting the power of third parties to seek revocation of a GRC; and those providing penalties where applications are malicious or vexatious. I am disappointed because they represent international best practice and, most important, the needs and experience of trans people themselves, whose voices have not been sufficiently heard above the clamour of noisy opposition.
I am deeply unhappy that, despite resisting the most horrendous amendments this week, the bill now includes provisions that I can describe only as dog whistles. Such messages in legislation can never make for good law, for they create and legitimise the context of hate and fear in which, heartbreakingly, trans people are obliged to live.
There is nothing new here. Every time a group of marginalised people come close to achieving their rights and emerge from the fog of condescension and ridicule through which they have previously been seen, the same story is told—the story about the need to protect women and children, especially girls, from some new and insidious threat. That has never been true, and we look back with collective shame at the way in which our society has been duped by it. In exactly the same way, we will look back at the current moral panic with deep regret.
The myths that are being spread about the bill follow those old patterns with depressing precision, yet we are far from the first country to carry out such reform, which applies to populations of many hundreds of millions, and nowhere that has gone before us has experienced any of the scenarios that are hinted at by the bill’s opponents. That is no surprise, because those scenarios simply do not make any sense. Women and girls are, indeed, vulnerable to predatory attack, as trans women know better than most, but no potential attacker needs a GRC to play their power games.
Our society is based on self-identification. From the time that we are born until the time that we die, we, or someone on our behalf, tells the world who we are, where we live, what we earn, and what name, what faith and what national identity we recognise as our own. There are penalties for untruths, just as there are in the bill, but the fundamental understanding is that each of us knows better than anyone else who we are.
Finally, those long years have shown that there is no bright line between people who claim to support trans rights but in practice oppose every step towards them, and those who view all trans people as fraudulent or, at best, deluded. In the spectrum of trans myths, the most extreme provide a kind of invisible ballast for the mainstream, but they are still myths, still toxic and still untrue. As the great feminist Judith Butler has written of this movement, they
“assemble and launch incendiary claims”
to defeat us
“by any rhetorical means necessary.”
In closing, I, too, want to bring the words of a trans person to this chamber. We have spent many hours talking about trans people. Let us hear them:
“It’s a scary world for trans people at the moment. My family were initially supportive, but we moved my mum to live nearer to us recently and realised that she is now a TERF. It’s a sign of things going on in the rest of the world. She talks about how trans people are predatory, and are going to go into toilets and commit sexual assaults. I remember the repeal of section 28 and this is what it feels like. Like we are demonised by society and are portrayed as threats. And people with loud voices on social media and in mainstream media are saying that we want this to sexually assault people. There is so much very loud hate and demonisation. We are people.”
So, Presiding Officer, we will not be defeated—not today, and not in the months and years to come. We now have a choice: to stand in the miasma of scaremongering myth or to step into the sunlight with our trans siblings. I choose to step into that sunlight and vote for the bill.14:03
For once, I feel confident in saying that everyone who has participated in this debate—from the most ardent bill supporter, through the doubtful, to those who are fervently opposed to it—can all expect the same fate, which, regrettably, is to be met by at least some level of abuse afterwards from some quarter or another.
In many respects, that is testament to the collective failure of all of us, from the Government to the lowliest of back benchers, to ensure that the issue is managed with the mutual respect and seriousness that it deserves. There are far too many people, even among elected representatives, who have felt unable to participate in discussions because of the toxic nature of the debate.
In his poem for the reopening of the Scottish Parliament, Edwin Morgan wrote:
“What do the people want of the place? They want it to be filled with thinking persons”.
I wonder how he would view the quality of discourse around this issue.
The other day, in speaking to my amendment, I revealed some personal effects that the debate has had on me, but, today, I want to set that to one side and to reflect more broadly. I will not debate detail; that time has passed. However, if there is one lesson that I hope that we can all learn from the debate, it is that Edwin Morgan’s remark is truer than ever, and we all need the humility to admit that we have some distance yet to travel.
I fear that the bill has been a missed opportunity. Elements of it would have brought us all together in making life easier and society more welcoming for trans people and in being more respectful of the rights of women. Instead, the bill has created battlegrounds where none needed to exist.
I have long had a professional interest in matters of change and in what basic lessons we can learn from both experience and research. We know that significant change fails in about 70 per cent of cases. Such a failure occurs when people are not collectively taken on a journey. Failures to respect a wide variety of views, to listen and to engage truly empathetically are symptomatic of the types of behaviours that contribute to that situation, and I have seen some of those failings in the debate.
Many issues have been raised over recent days. In my case, I have raised concerns among some women in relation to mental health and trauma issues, which I fear have not been treated seriously enough, let alone understood. Others have raised concerns relating to the interface with the Equality Act 2010, safe spaces for women and the consequences of giving legitimacy to the self-ID approach. It does not matter now whether I agree with some of those observations. For me, what the debate has highlighted is that we have had a less-than-perfect approach to the entire legislative process. When that occurs, it undermines trust in the perception that all of us legislate fairly and effectively.
In all of this, there is, of course, raw politics. Too often, small minorities, both inside and outside the Parliament, have been afforded significantly too much influence at the expense of the ordinary citizens of Scotland. There is a fear among some people that we are on a dangerous path for democracy if we fall into what Professor Elizabeth David-Barrett has called “state capture”, which happens when small groups of the strongly driven capture political debate and discourse at the expense of the people whom we are here to serve. We all need to be aware of the motivations of those people who seek to influence us.
My belief is that approaching the politics of the debate as requiring the dark arts of the whips was wrong. If all political parties in the Parliament had, from the outset, agreed that this was precisely the type of issue redolent of ethics and fundamental rights that should have been dealt with as a matter of conscience rather than being whipped, we would have had a much more open and healthy debate and, flowing from that, a better legislative process and bill. As it stands, the late recognition of different views and the legislative journey that has resulted in a final bill that, regrettably, will bring some unintended consequences—and, arguably, court action—mean that, as a matter of conscience, I cannot vote in favour of it at this time.14:08
Let me say clearly and unequivocally that I believe that trans people are real, that their identity is fundamental and essential to their being and that people’s fundamental identities deserve to be recognised freely, without caveat or condition. That is important.
I would like to reflect on my colleague Paul O’Kane’s comments. Sometimes, when we discuss things in Parliament, we have to challenge legislation and probe its effects. When we do that in connection with legislation that deals with the fundamental and essential issues of people’s understanding of themselves, that can be incredibly difficult to listen to. I understand that. I have had that conversation with constituents and wanted to reflect that. I am going to raise some concerns and will do so with that in mind.
Let me also be clear that this is an important bill that makes an important change. It was in the Labour manifesto, and I will support it when we vote on it. We must, ultimately, respect people’s identity. We must also recognise in the bill that there is a limit to what medicine can provide for us. Psychiatrists cannot provide a magic window into people’s brains, heads or understanding. Believe me, I have some experience of interaction with psychiatrists: all they do is ask you about your experience and your understanding. If that is what is important and determines your identity—which is what I believe—we should believe people and trust them. Let us, by all means, have a robust process that ensures that declarations are sincere and authentic, but let us believe people. That is how progress is made.
I fundamentally believe that progressive politics, at its heart, is about recognising and protecting individuals’ perspectives and experiences. It is about understanding that certain groups might be marginalised and that they should be supported and protected. That is what the bill does, and that is why I will support it when we vote.
We must also be clear on some things. Gender is absolutely fundamental to society. It is the one physical characteristic to be legally recorded; almost nothing else about our physical being is recorded in that way. There is an important reason why we do that. Although we might believe that gender identity is about one’s experience, understanding and sense of self, we must also note that there are some fundamentals to biology. Maleness predicts certain patterns of behaviour, which is why we must proceed with a degree of caution. That is where some of the concerns that I would like to address come from. Concerns about safe spaces and about the safety of women and girls are fundamental to my decision making and hugely important.
We must recognise that the bill changes both the number of people who might seek a GRC and the criteria that we are employing. Self-ID is a change that we are entrenching in law. That is not a bad thing; it is a good thing. The complexity arising from it is not a bad thing but a good thing, because people are complicated, but it will require far more nuanced decision making. My concern is that the protections in the Equality Act 2010, although they operate in narrow circumstances, are hugely important when they do so. I believe that we have put protections in place, and I am pleased that we got the Equality Act 2010 into the wording of the bill, but I would have liked us to have gone further. I thank the cabinet secretary for stating at stage 2 and again in the chamber today that there are protections and that trans women can be excluded from safe spaces.
Will the member accept an intervention?
In a moment.
That is an important clarification. We must be mindful about the sensitivity, but it is important that that exclusion will continue to operate.
I am happy to take an intervention.
The member should note that he has little time left.
I will try to be brief. My understanding of Lady Haldane’s ruling is that a male-bodied man with a GRC is a woman, not a trans woman. On that basis, how do we deal with the safe-space issue? Does the member agree with my understanding?
I entirely understand. There is a fundamental misunderstanding about the practical effect of the Equality Act 2010 and the legal structure that exists. The practical effect is that a male-bodied person can be excluded; we exclude them on the basis that they are transgender. I admit that that is a convoluted explanation, but that is how things operate. It is my understanding that the Haldane judgment does not change that.
There is a challenge here, and I wish that the Government had gone further, because the legal mechanism runs counter to practical understanding. We need that clarification, both for trans people and for people born into the gender that they are comfortable with. We should have clarity about how and when we can employ those protections. That is why I sought guidance, which I do not think would have made the bill incompetent. I think that it would have made the bill better, and it would have meant that I could support the bill in an unqualified way. Unfortunately, I am supporting it in a qualified way, because I think that there is much more work for the Government to do to provide that confidence and understanding. Ultimately, rights are nothing if people do not understand what their rights are or do not have the confidence to uphold them. That is true for both trans people and the people who might be seeking protection.
Given the time, I will close. I will support the bill when we vote on it later this afternoon. I say to those who have constantly sought to challenge Labour members that they will understand that I have spoken for myself. Maybe they can let my colleagues speak for themselves, too.14:15
Thank you for allowing an additional speaker today, Presiding Officer.
I spent many years helping organisations to improve inclusion in the workplace. It is part of my DNA. I have made sure in my job that everyone, whether they are female, male, gay, transitioning or with a disability, is physically and psychologically safe at work. As a human resources director and now as a legislator, the safety of others is my priority.
However, in recent months, I have been inundated with emails from people who are not just sceptical about the plans but deeply, deeply worried. They know that the bill is not just simplifying the process to get a piece of paper. They know that it makes it easier for people to legally change their sex and that it opens the door to single-sex spaces to an undefined group of people.
Women and girls are not victims, but they are victimised. This is not about a competition of rights. It is about creating the right conditions for the co-existence of those rights. This bill simply does not do that.
We have been told by the SNP that there is no need to press pause on the bill and examine the implications of a major intervention by the UN special rapporteur on violence against women and girls or last week’s court ruling on the definition of a woman. Scrutiny and debate matter to the SNP only when that suits it. That is shameful. The sad truth is that the passage of the bill has shattered my confidence in our democratic institutions.
Women’s organisations were an afterthought prior to the introduction of the bill. Every party save the Scottish Conservatives is whipping the vote. At stage 1 and this week, a handful of SNP MSPs broke ranks, and they should be applauded for doing so. That was a much-needed departure from the authoritarian ideologues who preside over the SNP-Green Government. I say to those MSPs on the Labour and SNP benches who fear the reproaches from their party whips or the effect on their careers more than the repercussions of the bill for women and girls that there is still time to choose courage over cowardice. Collectivism should not trump their conscience.
My amendments yesterday would at least have placed a duty on ministers to report on the bill’s impact on women and girls, who risk being collateral damage in the SNP-Green Government’s single-minded pursuit of self-ID.
However, something else is happening—an insidious creep that started with women being branded as bigots and transphobes for raising concerns over their rights and safety. A few weeks ago, women wearing suffragette scarves were told to remove them or leave the meeting of a parliamentary committee that was scrutinising the bill in Scotland’s own seat of democracy. Last week, women were prevented from assembling in an academic institution to discuss the issues arising in the documentary “Adult Human Female”, their right to freedom of speech being not just curtailed, but cut off completely.
Will the member take an intervention?
The member is concluding.
On Tuesday night, law-abiding women were threatened with arrest as they observed the proceedings from the Scottish Parliament’s public gallery. It will not end there.
As the parliamentary passage of the bill reaches its conclusion, I still believe that the intent behind it was good, but it remains the case for me that the unintended consequences for women, girls and young people will be far greater. From the age of application to access to single-sex spaces and safeguards against sex offenders exploiting the system, there are still massive question marks over the safety of the operation of the bill. For those reasons, I will be unable to support it when we vote on it.14:19
I do not understand being trans, because I am cisgender. Neither do I understand being straight, gay or a man, because I am not those. We do not have to understand how a person comes to realise that they are trans to respect that they know their own mind, their own body and their own truth—and to accept that they are also ordinary, normal people.
I have struggled with the debate, not just because it has been going on for about a quarter of my life—and, recently, has been a source of sleep deprivation—but because we are constantly told that it has been respectful.
Many people have been respectful; many have asked legitimate questions that they genuinely do not know the answer to; and many have contributed to a better understanding of trans lives. However, others have not been respectful. Folk have crossed the line between respectful questions and blatant transphobia—calling trans women “men” or trans men “women”, and denying that anyone can be non-binary. Given that experts have told us that the political discourse in the UK right now is contributing to an increase in trans hate crime, now is not the time for folk to pat themselves on the back for managing to say horrible things in a polite tone.
Max, a non-binary person who I recently met through an LGBT youth organisation, really summed it up for me when they said that, throughout this debate, opinions have been stated as fact and facts dismissed as opinions.
The bill does not affect the Equality Act 2010. A GRC does not grant access to any toilet in the world. If anyone is unsure about that, they should try to remember the last time that they were asked to produce a birth certificate before they entered one.
I, a survivor, have had the words “rape apologist” screamed at me this week. As a survivor, I understand fear; I understand being scared of men; and I can imagine that, if I were not involved in politics, did not have trans friends and heard people in authority say that sex offenders were being given all-access passes to my hospital bed, my toilet and my bedroom, I, too, would be frightened. However, we have to leave that in the past, because it is not a fair representation of what the bill does.
I know how much work the Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee has put into the bill, and I was glad to be able to take part in two of its 13 or so evidence sessions. An incredible amount of detail went into producing the bill, which will bring in what is, in the grand scheme of things, a fairly insignificant administrative improvement. The bill affects so few people—the trans population—most of whom would tell us that the change affects an even smaller percentage, because not everyone wants a GRC, and many who want one do not want it to say “male” or “female”.
What has affected more people is the harmful debate that has surrounded this. That has harmed not just trans people but a lot of cisgender women, because people have been told by their MSPs and by celebrities that the bill affects things that it does not affect, and that they should be scared of it.
In addition, young people have taken a fair bit of criticism. This week, in the chamber, I have heard at least three colleagues talk about how people under 25 have “unformed brains”. Young people have been accused of not knowing their own minds and not being able to decide what is right for them. However, young trans people are strong—they have had to be. They may have mental health issues, they may struggle with identity, and they might cry when they hear MSPs debate their future, but they have the strength, the courage and the absolute fierceness to say, in this climate, “I am trans. This is who I am”—and they have probably known it for a very long time.
Does Emma Roddick agree that, given a scaffolding of support around them rather than criticism, young people in Scotland can develop, grow and mature? Does she agree that, in this place, and indeed in Scotland, we should seek to build that scaffolding, so that our young people can make choices that they are supported in—and, on the odd occasion when their choice is wrong, be supported in that as well?
Absolutely. Having such support and options available to young people will allow space for that to happen.
Max’s reflection on the debate was so good that I knew that I would have to talk about it, but I also know that, often, Highlands and Islands voices are not heard. I therefore asked fellow members of Highland Pride for any thoughts that they wanted to share with me.
I thank Rachel and her daughter for speaking to me and sharing their fantastic speech at Moray pride. Rachel said of her daughter that, when she was wee and was asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, she would immediately say, “I want to be a girl.” Rachel supported her child. She knew that she was going to be judged as a parent but she wanted her kid to be happy—and she was. Rachel shared that her daughter’s teacher at the time said that he expected the change of name and the change of clothes, but not the change of personality: she immediately became happier and more confident. Sadly, the discrimination, hatred and bullying that she then faced knocked that confidence back down, but I hope that we can do better by trans people in the future. When someone changes their gender and becomes more confident as a result, we should rally around them for as long as it takes for that hatred to become a thing of the past. We should support them, protect them and celebrate them, as Rachel does her daughter.
This debate really should have been a small one, on one afternoon, that not many folk cared about and that was not all that controversial. It still feels surreal that it has been the way it has. When the bill is finally passed and the world does not burn, that should mean a positive change in the discourse around so many related issues: ending conversion therapy; improving trans access to healthcare, particularly for rural and island communities; and recognition of non-binary identities. Today is a small change but a big step, so let us do what every party promised to do in 2016 and get the bill done.14:26
“As a Conservative, I believe in the fundamental human freedoms of liberty, freedom of expression and of gender equality for all people—a human right which lifts us all up.”
Those are the words of Sue, who is a gender recognition certificate holder and an approved candidate for the Conservative Party at the next general election. Sue is in the public gallery behind me, and I welcome her here to this place. [Applause.]
Last Friday, my party issued a press release calling on MSPs to stand up and be counted over the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill. Well, this is me standing up and this is me being counted. Do not get me wrong, colleagues—the LGBT community is often anything but a community. As a right-of-centre gay politician, I often get more abuse from paradoxically named allies than I do from those who disapprove of my so-called lifestyle, as one constituent put it to me this week, but I do not look at them in the mirror in the morning—neither the haters nor the disapprovers—I look at myself.
If I were to vote against this bill to reform gender recognition, I must look people like Sue in the eye and explain why. That is only fair. Other members must do the same, just as I must explain my position to those who oppose the bill—a responsibility that I have never shied away from. I have considered every point of view, every argument and every amendment, one by one by one, because making good law is our collective responsibility, whatever our views on the morality of its content.
That is a responsibility that I take deeply seriously today—more than anything that I have ever done in this place. I have played my part in all of this with integrity, grit and respect, and by doing what I think is best. I believe that others have done the same, even if I disagree with their end position. I am grateful to my party for allowing me a free vote on the bill, but a free vote does not always mean a free voice, and I thank the chair for allowing me to speak today.
This is politics, after all, and let me tell you about mine. The very heart and soul of the Conservative movement—this is why I joined it and why Sue joined it, too—is that it is the party that says that Government should not tell people how to live their lives. It is the party that introduced gay marriage at Westminster against vociferous opposition, often from its own members. It is the party that unapologetically flies the rainbow flag above Downing Street, the Foreign Office and every British embassy the world over. It is the party that once committed to gender recognition reform and ending conversion therapy. It is the party whose one-time Prime Minister said that being transgender is not an illness. It is the party that leads popular opinion, not follows it. That is my party and that is why I will support the bill.
The world changes, and during the course of that change, we, too, can change—as lawmakers, as colleagues, as friends and as people. I know that, tomorrow, when I wake, I have to look myself in the mirror. I know that, one day, perhaps in the long-distant future, I will reflect on the events of this week and know that I chose the side of history that I believed to be right—the side of history that made another human being’s life better. I simply ask all members that, before they vote on the bill today, they quietly pause and ask themselves whether they will be able to do the same.
I call Jackie Baillie to wind up on behalf of Scottish Labour. [Interruption.]14:30
Presiding Officer, I have made the rookie error of not inserting my card into the console before starting to speak. I apologise.
I echo the words of many members across the chamber in thanking the Government’s and the Parliament’s legislation teams and all parliamentary staff who have had to work long hours to facilitate the passage of the bill. Of course, I extend my thanks to all the Presiding Officers, who have had to put in a fair shift.
The bill has been a long time coming: we have had six years of consultation and hours of parliamentary debate. Along with a few other members, I have been in the Scottish Parliament for a long time, which means that I have a relatively long institutional memory. As other members have done, I have sat through debates on hundreds of pieces of legislation and negotiated hundreds of amendments, so let me reflect briefly on the process before turning to the substance of the bill.
I regret to say that I think that the Government could have done more to address the concerns that have been expressed, particularly by women. It could have allayed fears, provided reassurance and clarity, and ensured that the integrity of the bill was protected. The bill is, rightly, about improving the rights of trans people, but there has been a vacuum in political leadership that has allowed the debate to be dominated by division and distrust instead of openness and discussion.
I also have to say, as gently as I can, that the filibustering tactics of the Tories have been entirely counterproductive. I would much rather have used the hours that were wasted on dealing with points of order on actually debating the substance of the bill. Of course there is a place for making points of order, but not when it removes debating time.
I turn to the substance of the bill. I understand that obtaining a gender recognition certificate can be a lengthy overmedicalised and traumatic process that is undignified and disrespectful. Paul O’Kane, Jamie Greene and Pam Duncan-Glancy made powerful contributions that captured that well. That is why Scottish Labour supports reform of the Gender Recognition Act 2004 by the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill that is before us, as was set out in the Scottish Labour manifesto.
Scottish Labour takes seriously our role as legislators and our responsibility to ensure that all discussions surrounding the bill were well informed and conducted in a considerate manner. That is why, throughout the bill’s progress, we have reached out and listened to the views of all those with an interest in or concern about the legislation. When we supported the bill at stage 1, we were clear that significant improvements would be needed if it was to have the public’s confidence. Through our efforts, and those of other colleagues across the chamber, the legislation is in a much stronger place than it was when it was first introduced.
At stage 2, we placed the primacy of the Equality Act 2010 on the face of the bill, and we sought to strengthen it at stage 3. That makes it clear that nothing in the bill prevents the provisions of the 2010 act from being applied.
I disagree. The process is about ensuring that legislation is robust. There was no filibustering.
My point is about the removal of section 15A. Does Jackie Baillie not believe that, since Lady Haldane’s judgment, the amendment lodged by Pam Duncan-Glancy is ineffective?
We rehearsed all those issues in great detail during the amendment stage. Both today and yesterday, the cabinet secretary made it abundantly clear that those provisions still apply. I listened carefully to her, and her words are on the record. That matters, because it is important that the Equality Act 2010 continues to apply in Scotland.
At stage 2, we placed the primacy of the 2010 act on the face of the bill; it was important to us to do so, because nothing in the bill stops the act’s provisions being applied. Our support also helped to add safeguards into the bill to prevent the new application process from being abused by bad faith actors.
Labour introduced the 2010 act, which rightly protects women and trans people from discrimination. We understand that some people have concerns about the bill’s impact and potential unintended consequences for women’s rights, particularly the protection of single-sex services, and that is why we fought to establish that those protections, as enshrined in the 2010 act, were in the bill. Scottish Labour lodged various amendments to emphasise the protections and provisions in the 2010 act and to ensure that it was stated explicitly that they would not in any way be altered by reforms of the GRC. I am grateful to the cabinet secretary for confirming, both yesterday and in her comments to the chamber today, that the act’s provisions apply in full.
We also lodged amendments on the need to ensure that young people had the capacity to understand the implications of applying for a GRC; to guard against any forms of coercion of young people; and to ensure that they were provided with additional support and safeguards. Importantly, we also, with the Government’s support, put a robust monitoring and review process into the bill to ensure that we can consider the legislation’s impact and operation. Again, that was about providing reassurance.
Scottish Labour has a long and proud history of supporting, campaigning and legislating for the rights of all. We campaigned against and repealed section 28, and we introduced the Human Rights Act 1998 and the Equality Act 2010. Labour is the party of equality; we have always fought against prejudice and have sought to build a society in which everyone is treated with dignity and respect.
Trans people’s rights are human rights and they must be treated with the same dignity and respect as everybody else. Scottish Labour will be voting to support the bill at stage 3.14:37
I begin by sincerely thanking the parliamentary staff for working long antisocial hours at short notice in this Christmas week, not least those who do not get extra pay but who get off time off in lieu.
I respect the fact that others in the chamber might not agree with me, as I do not agree with them. In the past 48 hours, our views have been made abundantly clear, and many of today’s contributions have been thoughtful, passionate and sincerely given. I want the precious few minutes that I have today to say what needs to be said and to give voice to people whom I believe have not been heard. I will therefore not be able to take interventions—and I say that in the knowledge that the cabinet secretary will have the last word and can address anything that I say.
This SNP Government wants today to be a moment of history for trans rights. It might well achieve that historic recognition, but I believe that it will be for all the wrong reasons. Today is not a victory for those who view themselves as progressive—it is the opposite. The Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill is regressive and poses a threat to women and girls—and I make no apology for saying so. Saying that is not transphobic; as Tess White has said, this is not a competition of rights. When this bill is passed, I will not go home and tell my daughter that I am proud of what happened here today; I will tell her that the Parliament let her down and let down other women across Scotland.
The SNP is defying the views of the vast majority of Scots, and the bill has been railroaded with selective regard to evidence and little regard to women’s concerns. It does not fully consider the consequences for vulnerable young people or single-sex spaces, and the SNP has said that, because it does not mention sport or prisons, the bill will have no bearing on either. I believe that that is fanciful. Public bodies such as the Scottish Prison Service and the taxpayer-funded sports quangos will inevitably be influenced by such major legislation. The cabinet secretary dismissed concerns about women’s sports so passionately raised by Brian Whittle, who really does know his subject. It is naive to pretend that it will somehow be inconsequential if a man presents a new GRC, whether in sport or in custody.
There are also the ramifications for other parts of the United Kingdom.
Will the member give way?
I am sorry, but I do not have the time to do so.
What weight will a new Scottish GRC have in England, Wales and Northern Ireland? Will the bill, as the former First Minister Jack McConnell suggests, turn Scotland into a magnet for sexual predators? What challenges will Scottish—[Interruption.]
Let us hear the member, please.
I hear “Shameful!” from front-bench members but those are the words of a former First Minister of the Parliament.
What challenges will Scottish GRCs cause for UK-wide bodies such as His Majesty’s Passport Office?
Will Russell Findlay give way?
I am sorry, but I do not have the time.
What about the interconnection between public bodies with distinct national and regional identities, such as the police, the prisons and the national health service? Our scrutiny of the bill has barely even touched those profound questions. It is absolutely mind boggling and, to be frank, a conflict bonanza for lawyers.
One of the most obscene aspects of the SNP’s bill is that it opens the door to predatory men to pretend to be trans. Let me state it again clearly so that the SNP and others do not deliberately misinterpret it: the problem is dangerous men, not trans people. [Interruption.]
Keith Brown is saying “I know what you mean.” That is exactly the conflation that I am talking about. It is disrespectful and it is disgraceful. I say to the Cabinet Secretary for Justice that the problem is dangerous men, not trans people. [Interruption.]
Let us ensure that we hear members.
I tried to address some of that issue but my amendments to ban sex offenders from changing gender were shot down using vague legal excuses. Someone who is on the sex offenders register should not be able to acquire a GRC. The Government acknowledged any risk only as a direct result of Scottish Conservative efforts but, instead, it chooses to impose a complicated process that will be open to interpretation, judgment and, inevitably, mistakes—a system that will place even more work on our courts and hard-pressed police officers.
Police Scotland appears to have become a dumping ground for SNP back-of-the-fag-packet legislation on fireworks, short-term lets and, now, gender recognition reform. There are already almost 5,000 registered sex offenders in Scotland. Mistakes are being made and people are being hurt. The system is already at breaking point.
I was scunnered when the Government voted against Michelle Thomson’s amendment 39, which I supported.
Will Russell Findlay give way?
I have already explained that I am unable to do so because of the time.
Michelle Thomson’s amendment would have stopped anyone who was charged with rape or other sex crimes from applying for a GRC until their trial ended. It would have prevented the nightmare scenario of forcing by law a female rape victim to call her male-bodied attacker a woman. Roddy Dunlop KC, the dean of the Faculty of Advocates, said:
“I can conceive of no sensible basis upon which this amendment might be rejected”,
but our joint amendment failed by a single vote.
As Michelle Thomson potently put it, the bill puts the rights of a man charged with rape above those of his victim. Is that really acceptable? The Parliament seems to think that sex offenders are trustworthy. To some members, I say, “Wake up.” As a journalist, I spent decades reporting on some of society’s most dangerous and deviant men. Those men abuse, corrupt, manipulate and exploit any process or system to gain an advantage.
Today, everyone is a loser. Sex offenders have a novel way to prey on women. Women and girls are less safe. Our overworked police and backlogged courts will have to treat predatory men as women. Worst of all, loving parents of children who are confused about their feelings and identity risk losing their agency to state ideology.
The way in which that has been done will confirm some of the public’s worst assumptions of politicians being detached from reality and out of touch with what happens in the real world. The debate has come to mirror Scottish politics: polarised, bitter and with ideology trumping logic and intolerance silencing good sense. For Scotland’s sake, I hope that this rotten Government will pay a price for its hubris and arrogance.14:44
I thank the members who have contributed to the debate. There have been powerful contributions and in the main—with some exceptions—the tone has been appropriate and respectful. I will reflect on some points that have been made.
I was very moved by the contributions from Joe FitzPatrick and Monica Lennon. Joe FitzPatrick talked about the key times in someone’s life when this will matter and about the challenging journey for so many trans people.
Karen Adam described the experience of Russ, who wanted to just be a normal human being and is now finally living his life as who he wants to be, at the age of 68. Who would deny Russ the opportunity to have his birth certificate in line with how he has lived his life for decades?
Paul O’Kane made a powerful contribution that drew from his experience and testimony about how it feels to be marginalised and about how he, as a person of faith and belief, feels when that is misrepresented. That was a powerful contribution indeed.
I might not agree with Michelle Thomson, but it was important that she got to speak today on the SNP speakers list, to reflect her opinion. I thank the Presiding Officer for affording Jamie Greene the same opportunity to give a very powerful contribution to the Parliament. [Applause.] What he had to say was important—that we as politicians, leaders and legislators need to lead, not follow, popular opinion. That can be tough sometimes—it can be very tough—but it is the right thing to do. I commend people across the chamber for doing that.
I will make a few remarks about the importance of the reforms to trans people in Scotland. Before the Gender Recognition Act 2004 was passed, the UK was found by the European Court of Human Rights to be in breach of convention rights in relation to trans people’s right to respect for their private and family life, because the UK did not provide a route to legal gender recognition. The current process was born from that; it was an important moment in the rights of trans people at that time.
However, in the 18 years since the act was passed, as many members have said, there have been international developments in best practice, including the reclassification of gender dysphoria by the World Health Organization and the introduction by many countries of similar reforms. A clear international human rights consensus has emerged that legal gender recognition should be provided on the basis of self-declaration. The Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights set out the consensus in her recent report, in which she said that trans people have the right to legal recognition of their gender identity and that
“legal gender recognition procedures”
“quick, transparent, and accessible, and in line with internationally recognised human rights best practices, including self-determination.”
She said that such procedures have been implemented successfully in other countries, while preserving everyone’s human rights.
Here, Scotland is not leading the way—we are following many countries around the world that have already adopted similar processes for gender recognition, including Ireland, Norway, Malta, Denmark, Belgium, New Zealand and Switzerland. Just yesterday, Spain passed the first stage of legislation for self-declaration for people who are aged 16 or over.
In total, more than 350 million people around the world are living in countries or states that offer gender recognition on such a basis. The experience in those places has been of a beneficial impact on the lives of trans people, with no evidence of a negative impact for others. We have said this throughout the passage—[Interruption.]
We will suspend briefly.14:49 Meeting suspended.
14:53 On resuming—
Please continue, cabinet secretary.
Thank you, Presiding Officer. I will say that, as a woman, I know what a woman is and I know the challenges that are faced by women in our society.
The experience, in the many countries that have introduced such changes, is that there has been a beneficial impact on the lives of trans people, with no evidence of a negative impact for others. We have said this throughout the passage of the bill, and I again refer to the work of Victor Madrigal-Borloz, who has researched what has happened in those countries and found that the outcomes, in terms of social inclusion and the decrease in violence against trans people, are remarkable.
I think that we can all hope that trans people in Scotland will also be able to benefit from those positive outcomes as the bill removes barriers to the enjoyment of their human rights.
I make a plea to MSPs to agree something that we can all move forward with. Whether or not members vote for the bill, I hope that we can unite and agree to tackle and challenge transphobia, wherever and whenever it occurs. It can occur anywhere, even in this parliamentary building. I am sad to say that I am aware of a trans woman who was in this estate who was referred to as “it” by an MSP to another colleague. That has nothing to do with protecting women and girls, but has everything to do with transphobia. Therefore, let us agree that the othering of a minority in our society is totally wrong. If we hear such prejudice here in this Parliament or anywhere else, we should call it out for what it is, because we are better than that.
I will end with a quote from Martin Luther King Jr, who said:
“We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
I thank members again for their contributions to this debate, and I commend the motion and the bill to the Parliament. I urge members to support the bill.
That concludes the debate on the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill.
The question is, that motion S6M-07312, in the name of Shona Robison, on the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill, be agreed to. There will be a brief pause to allow members to access the digital voting system.14:56 Meeting suspended.
14:59 On resuming—
The question is, that motion S6M-07312, in the name of Shona Robison, on Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill, be agreed to. Members should cast their votes now.
The vote is closed.
On a point of order, Presiding Officer. My option to vote did not come up. I would have voted yes.
We will ensure that that is recorded.
Adam, George (Paisley) (SNP)
Adam, Karen (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)
Adamson, Clare (Motherwell and Wishaw) (SNP)
Allan, Alasdair (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP)
Arthur, Tom (Renfrewshire South) (SNP)
Baillie, Jackie (Dumbarton) (Lab)
Beattie, Colin (Midlothian North and Musselburgh) (SNP)
Bibby, Neil (West Scotland) (Lab)
Boyack, Sarah (Lothian) (Lab)
Brown, Keith (Clackmannanshire and Dunblane) (SNP)
Brown, Siobhian (Ayr) (SNP)
Burgess, Ariane (Highlands and Islands) (Green)
Carlaw, Jackson (Eastwood) (Con)
Chapman, Maggie (North East Scotland) (Green)
Choudhury, Foysol (Lothian) (Lab)
Clark, Katy (West Scotland) (Lab)
Coffey, Willie (Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley) (SNP)
Cole-Hamilton, Alex (Edinburgh Western) (LD)
Constance, Angela (Almond Valley) (SNP)
Dey, Graeme (Angus South) (SNP)
Don, Natalie (Renfrewshire North and West) (SNP)
Doris, Bob (Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn) (SNP)
Dornan, James (Glasgow Cathcart) (SNP)
Dunbar, Jackie (Aberdeen Donside) (SNP)
Duncan-Glancy, Pam (Glasgow) (Lab)
FitzPatrick, Joe (Dundee City West) (SNP)
Gilruth, Jenny (Mid Fife and Glenrothes) (SNP)
Gougeon, Mairi (Angus North and Mearns) (SNP)
Grahame, Christine (Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale) (SNP)
Grant, Rhoda (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)
Gray, Neil (Airdrie and Shotts) (SNP)
Greene, Jamie (West Scotland) (Con)
Greer, Ross (West Scotland) (Green)
Griffin, Mark (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Gulhane, Sandesh (Glasgow) (Con)
Harper, Emma (South Scotland) (SNP)
Harvie, Patrick (Glasgow) (Green)
Haughey, Clare (Rutherglen) (SNP)
Hepburn, Jamie (Cumbernauld and Kilsyth) (SNP)
Hyslop, Fiona (Linlithgow) (SNP)
Johnson, Daniel (Edinburgh Southern) (Lab)
Kidd, Bill (Glasgow Anniesland) (SNP)
Lennon, Monica (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Leonard, Richard (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Lochhead, Richard (Moray) (SNP)
MacDonald, Gordon (Edinburgh Pentlands) (SNP)
MacGregor, Fulton (Coatbridge and Chryston) (SNP)
Mackay, Gillian (Central Scotland) (Green)
Mackay, Rona (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (SNP)
Macpherson, Ben (Edinburgh Northern and Leith) (SNP)
Martin, Gillian (Aberdeenshire East) (SNP)
Matheson, Michael (Falkirk West) (SNP)
McAllan, Màiri (Clydesdale) (SNP)
McArthur, Liam (Orkney Islands) (LD)
McKee, Ivan (Glasgow Provan) (SNP)
McKelvie, Christina (Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse) (SNP)
McLennan, Paul (East Lothian) (SNP)
McMillan, Stuart (Greenock and Inverclyde) (SNP)
McNair, Marie (Clydebank and Milngavie) (SNP)
Minto, Jenni (Argyll and Bute) (SNP)
Nicoll, Audrey (Aberdeen South and North Kincardine) (SNP)
O’Kane, Paul (West Scotland) (Lab)
Rennie, Willie (North East Fife) (LD)
Robertson, Angus (Edinburgh Central) (SNP)
Robison, Shona (Dundee City East) (SNP)
Roddick, Emma (Highlands and Islands) (SNP)
Rowley, Alex (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)
Ruskell, Mark (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Green)
Sarwar, Anas (Glasgow) (Lab)
Slater, Lorna (Lothian) (Green)
Smyth, Colin (South Scotland) (Lab)
Somerville, Shirley-Anne (Dunfermline) (SNP)
Stevenson, Collette (East Kilbride) (SNP)
Stewart, Kaukab (Glasgow Kelvin) (SNP)
Stewart, Kevin (Aberdeen Central) (SNP)
Sturgeon, Nicola (Glasgow Southside) (SNP)
Sweeney, Paul (Glasgow) (Lab)
Swinney, John (Perthshire North) (SNP)
Todd, Maree (Caithness, Sutherland and Ross) (SNP)
Torrance, David (Kirkcaldy) (SNP)
Tweed, Evelyn (Stirling) (SNP)
Villalba, Mercedes (North East Scotland) (Lab)
Whitfield, Martin (South Scotland) (Lab)
Whitham, Elena (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley) (SNP)
Wishart, Beatrice (Shetland Islands) (LD)
Yousaf, Humza (Glasgow Pollok) (SNP)
Baker, Claire (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)
Balfour, Jeremy (Lothian) (Con)
Briggs, Miles (Lothian) (Con)
Burnett, Alexander (Aberdeenshire West) (Con)
Callaghan, Stephanie (Uddingston and Bellshill) (SNP)
Cameron, Donald (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Carson, Finlay (Galloway and West Dumfries) (Con)
Dowey, Sharon (South Scotland) (Con)
Ewing, Annabelle (Cowdenbeath) (SNP)
Ewing, Fergus (Inverness and Nairn) (SNP)
Fairlie, Jim (Perthshire South and Kinross-shire) (SNP)
Findlay, Russell (West Scotland) (Con)
Fraser, Murdo (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Gallacher, Meghan (Central Scotland) (Con)
Gibson, Kenneth (Cunninghame North) (SNP)
Golden, Maurice (North East Scotland) (Con)
Gosal, Pam (West Scotland) (Con)
Hamilton, Rachael (Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire) (Con)
Hoy, Craig (South Scotland) (Con)
Halcro Johnston, Jamie (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Kerr, Liam (North East Scotland) (Con)
Kerr, Stephen (Central Scotland) (Con)
Lumsden, Douglas (North East Scotland) (Con)
Maguire, Ruth (Cunninghame South) (SNP)
Mason, John (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)
McCall, Roz (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Mochan, Carol (South Scotland) (Lab)
Mountain, Edward (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Mundell, Oliver (Dumfriesshire) (Con)
Regan, Ash (Edinburgh Eastern) (SNP)
Ross, Douglas (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Simpson, Graham (Central Scotland) (Con)
Smith, Liz (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Stewart, Alexander (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Thomson, Michelle (Falkirk East) (SNP)
Webber, Sue (Lothian) (Con)
Wells, Annie (Glasgow) (Con)
White, Tess (North East Scotland) (Con)
Whittle, Brian (South Scotland) (Con)
The result of the division is: For 86, Against 39, Abstentions 0.
Motion agreed to,
That the Parliament agrees that the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill be passed.
Thank you, all. We will continue with business. [Interruption.] We will suspend business.15:02 Meeting suspended.
15:05 On resuming—