PLANS to make it easier for transgender people to change their birth certificates and have their gender identity legally recognised have been revealed.

The Scottish Government has launched a consultation on planned reforms to the UK Gender Recognition Act 2004.

The proposed changes have been welcomed by LGBTI organisations, who say the current system is "humiliating, offensive and expensive".

Equalities Minister Angela Constance said more needed to be done to progress equality for transgender and non-binary people.

According to the Scottish Government, the proposals would bring Scotland into line with international best practice, including:

• Replacing requirements to provide medical evidence and to live in an acquired gender for two years when seeking legal gender recognition, with a self-declaration system.

• Reducing the age at which recognition can be obtained to 16, and considering options for under-16s.

• Options for the legal recognition of non-binary people – people who do not identify as male or female.

Ms Constance said: "This Act was once considered ahead of its time but it now needs updated so we can ensure we are creating a fairer Scotland for those who are transgender and non-binary.

"By holding a full and wide ranging consultation we can make sure that our law is fit for purpose and in line with international best practice.

"This is a vital conversation and one which will ensure transgender and non-binary people in Scotland are treated with dignity, fairness and respect."

LGBTI organisations the Scottish Trans Alliance, Equality Network, LGBT Youth Scotland and Stonewall Scotland welcomed the consultation.

James Morton, Scottish Trans Alliance manager, said: "The current process to change the gender on a trans person's birth certificate is a humiliating, offensive and expensive red-tape nightmare which requires them to submit intrusive psychiatric evidence to a faceless tribunal panel years after they transitioned.

"It makes sense for birth certificates to be brought into line with the self-declaration process already used to change all other identity documents when trans people start living in their gender identity.

"Being able to change the gender on their birth certificate to match their other identity documents is important primarily to uphold trans people's privacy and dignity but also to ensure that their pensions, insurance policies, civil partnerships and marriages are all administered correctly."

Stonewall Scotland director Colin Macfarlane said the review was "desperately needed" and the time "to move the legislation on from being a long complicated bureaucratic process, which treats being trans as a mental illness.

"We believe a better Gender Recognition Act is a crucial next step in achieving equality for all trans people and will help reduce the discrimination and abuse that is all too prevalent in our society," he added. 

Fergus McMillan, Chief Executive of LGBT Youth Scotland, said: "We are working with young people through our youth commission on gender recognition, to bring their views and experiences to the forefront of the consultation. 

"These reforms will allow all trans people, including trans young people, to live with dignity and equality."

Women’s organisations Close the Gap, Engender, Equate Scotland, Rape Crisis Scotland, Scottish Women’s Aid, Women 50:50 and Zero Tolerance issued a joint statement of support for reform of the Gender Recognition Act.

They said they did not regard trans equality and women’s equality to be in competition or contradiction with each other and would continue to work with LGBTI colleagues to "ensure new processes are appropriately designed and without unintended consequences". 

However, opponents said part of the proposals, which include the option for children from the age of 12 to be considered in a self-declaration system, were "deeply damaging". 

Dr Stuart Waiton, a sociologist at Abertay University said "for a government to suggest that 12-year-olds, immature young people, who don’t have the ‘right’ to go to bed when they want, let alone anything else, can have gender reassignment should be seen as a form of state sponsored child abuse".

Simon Calvert, of the Christian Institute, said the move was "motivated more by political posturing than the best interests of children".

Thomas Pascoe, campaign director of the Coalition for Marriage said: "The proposal to allow children as young as 12 to change gender without parental consent is deeply damaging."