THE SCOTTISH government has been accused of "pandering to bigots" after delaying their plans to reform the gender recognition act.

The First Minister has also come under fire, described as 'losing control' of her party after a heated debated erupted over the GRA plans in the past year.

Equalities secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville this week announced the Scottish Government would carry out a second consultation on the proposals, which would see transgender people allowed to self-declare their gender and make it easier for them to obtain a gender recognition certificate.

Somerville also announced that the age of gender recognition would remain at 18, and there would be no extension of legal gender recognition to non-binary people.

A 16-week consultation was already held in 2017, with more than 15,000 people responding. More than 60% of respondents supported the plans.

The plans have been at the centre of controversy after some women's groups, backed by several prominent SNP MSPs and MPs, say the new legislation could put women's spaces at risk.

They claim that predatory men could access women's refuges, toilets and other facilities.

Now transgender and non-binary Scots have spoken out about their disappointment following Sommerville's announcement on Thursday.

Emily Frood, a trans woman from Edinburgh, said: "I’m ashamed, disappointed, and incredibly upset by the actions the Scottish Government have taken this week in relation the GRA reform.

"Trans and non-binary people in Scotland have been let down.

"The Scottish Government has suggested reforming the GRA in a frankly half-arsed capacity. I would rather a broken manifesto promise of not getting the reform implemented by 2021, than have a pathetic reform that includes a not fully self-declaratory method, fails to include 17 and 18 year olds as eligible, and completely ignores the validation and recognition of non-binary genders.

"They’re pandering to a vocal minority of ill-informed and bigoted individuals, many from the within the SNP, who suggest that the rights of trans people have a detrimental effect on the rights of women. This has never been the case.

"I’ve campaigned on this reform for nearly four years and to see it get ripped to shreds as a result of what comes across as a public pressure from a minority of bigoted people is heartbreaking.”

Kerry Rush, who is non-binary and from Edinburgh, added: "To say I’m disappointed is an understatement. I’m heartbroken, for myself and for the entire trans and non-binary communities. We waited 16 months to hear from the Scottish government about our rights, or lack thereof. We were led to believe they were working to help us (non-binary people) be legally recognised and instead we received two pitiful sentences [In Sommerville's statement].

"Non-binary people are people and deserve to live and love as part of wider society with the same rights and privileges as others. Instead what this so called progressive Scottish government has done is send a message of absolute disrespect and disregard for all non-binary people.

"I exist and I won’t be erased. I will keep fighting for my existence to be recognised."

One senior SNP source said that the decision to roll back on the manifesto pledge is down to "weak leadership, and the First Minister not having enough control at the top."

Colin Macfarlane, director at Stonewall Scotland said: "Now that the government has made this announcement, and it has fallen well short of what we had hoped, they are going to have to show leadership to ensure they tackle transphobic language when they hear it and when they see it, and ensure it is called out. "Trans people have had their lives put under the microscope now for the past 16 months, so it is the government’s duty of care now to ensure that that rhetoric is dialled down while we go through yet another consultation."

Cabinet Secretary for Equalities Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “We know that some in the trans community will be feeling a sense of deep disappointment at what they see as a lack of progress on trans rights. I want to reassure them that the Scottish Government is committed to reforming the 2004 Act and to removing unnecessary barriers for trans people to live in their true gender. We are committed to doing so during the current parliamentary session.

“However, it is important for that reform to be passed with strong support from across the Chamber and wider society. So we want to move forward but we also want to achieve consensus where possible.

“The debate about the rights of transgender people is becoming very polarised and we all have a part to play in reducing tensions and encouraging respectful debate. Everyone has a responsibility to unite against transphobia, just as we do against homophobia and any other form of prejudice and discrimination”.