THE Catholic Church in Scotland has claimed government moves to make it easier for young people to change their gender are “deeply disturbing” – insisting “our children deserve better”.

Anthony Horan, director of the Catholic Parliamentary Office, was responding to a Scottish Government plan that would allow children as young as 12 to decide their gender.

Mr Horan said that a 2015 study by Harvard paediatrics professor and epidemiologist Sari Reisner, and colleagues, showed transgender youths had an elevated risk of depression and suicide while it was separately claimed that certain treatments could cause infertility.

Agenda: Scottish Government's gender change proposals are a cause of great concern

Writing in The Herald today, Mr Horan said: “Perhaps most serious of all is the risk of lifelong infertility as sterility is inevitable when puberty blockers are followed by cross-sex hormones at an early stage of adolescent sexual development, or if pre-pubertal children are placed directly on these hormones, according to Dr Michelle Cretella of the American College of Paediatricians.

“Equalities Minister Angela Constance said the change was needed ‘to make sure transgender and non-binary people in Scotland were treated with dignity and respect’.

“The suggestion that 16 and 17-year-olds – never mind those as young as 12 – should pursue a change of gender at a time of their life fraught with confusion and vulnerability is deeply disturbing.”

He added: “These proposals should be considered thoughtfully, sensibly, and with considerable caution given these alarming statistics.

“In reality this is unlikely to happen.

“Their consultation may be supportive, but the Scottish Government will soon, to their long term cost, realise that public opinion is not.”

The comments by Mr Horan were challenged by James Morton, manager at Scottish Trans Alliance, who said accused the Catholic Parliamentary Office of misrepresenting research and science while "misleadingly" conflating a plan to simplify the process by which transgender people change their documentation with the medical treatments used to transition between genders.

Agenda: Scottish Government's gender change proposals are a cause of great concern

Mr Morton said: “The Scottish Government’s proposal is that 16 and 17 year olds should be allowed to change the gender marker on their birth certificate in the same way they can already change their gender marker on their other identity documents such as passports and bank cards.

“This would enable them to have privacy and dignity when they have to show their birth certificate to apply for work or university.

“It would have no impact on access to medical treatments – which will remain only available after careful assessment from NHS specialists.

“Incidentally, unbiased medical research evaluating over 30 years of puberty blocker use proves they are not a high risk treatment and do not harm fertility.”

He added: “The American College of Paediatricians is a tiny religious anti-LGBT group set up in 2002 as a protest against the large mainstream American Academy of Pediatrics’ support for adoption by gay couples.

“So it’s not a surprise that they dogmatically refuse to acknowledge the complex and varied development of sex characteristics and gender identity.

Agenda: Scottish Government's gender change proposals are a cause of great concern

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “One area we want to hear views on is whether to reduce the age young people can apply for legal gender recognition without parental involvement or consent from 18 to 16, making it consistent with other rights under the law such as getting married, entering a civil partnership or voting in Scottish elections.

“The consultation also asks whether it would be appropriate to consider expanding this right to under 16s and we will carefully consider the views of all respondents.”