UK Uses 'Nuclear Option' to Block Scottish Gender Reform

It creates a 'very, very slippery slope,' says Nicola Sturgeon, who promises legal fight
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 17, 2023 1:23 PM CST
UK Uses 'Nuclear Option' to Block Scottish Gender Reform
Scottish National Party leader and First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon speaks at a rally outside the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, Wednesday Nov. 23, 2022.   (Jane Barlow/PA via AP)

The UK government has for the first time used the "nuclear option" to block legislation passed by the Scottish parliament, in this case a law that would allow people to self-identify as transgender. The move sets up a court battle over Scotland's right to make its own laws. Alister Jack, the secretary of state for Scotland, blocked the law under section 35 of the 1998 Scotland Act, which allows the secretary of state to prevent royal assent of a law if there are reasonable concerns of an adverse effect on already existing UK legislation. Jack cited "an adverse impact" on the operation of the 2010 Equality Act, which applies to England, Scotland, and Wales, per the Guardian.

The Scottish law, passed with a 86-39 vote in December, would remove what the UK government considers "important safeguards" around the issuing of a Gender Recognition Certificate—including the requirement for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria. It would also reduce the minimum age of applicants from 18 to 16 and reduce wait times from two years to six months, per CNN. Government sources say this "could have an adverse impact across the UK in areas like equal pay, single sex spaces and prison transfers," per the Guardian. Harry Potter author JK Rowling has also been among critics warning that the rights of women and girls could suffer with the expansion of access to single-sex spaces, per CNN.

But First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon says there are "no grounds" for the government's move, which creates a "very, very slippery slope," per the Guardian. "This is a full-frontal attack on our democratically elected Scottish parliament and its ability to make its own decisions on devolved matters," she tweeted Monday. Sturgeon's Scottish National Party will inevitably make that same argument in court, which "could bolster the independence cause," per the Guardian. Sturgeon had planned an independence referendum for this year before the UK Supreme Court ruled in November that Scotland didn't have the power to legislate on issues relevant to the constitution. However, Reuters reports the SNP's own leadership is "divided" on the independence issue. (More United Kingdom stories.)

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