PUBLIC policy in Scotland has been “captured” by lobbyists for transgender rights, academics have claimed, leaving the rights of other groups, especially women and girls at risk.

A report in Edinburgh University’s journal Scottish Affairs, claims “a profound conceptual change” in our understanding of what it means to be a woman or a man has been taking place “without due diligence, democratic oversight or scrutiny”.

The paper looks at policy changes in prisons and proposed changes to the census, as examples of  “policy capture” by influential lobbying groups. The authors, Dr Kath Murray and Lucy Hunter Blackburn argue that in both cases, policy-makers, overly influenced by advocates for the rights of trans people, failed to consider how allowing people to self-declare their gender might affect other groups. “The analysis hows how decision making has been directed towards the interests of one specific interest group, to the detriment of another, women and girls”, they state.

Catriona Stewart: Trans rights questions in Yaniv male genitals waxing case must be answered in Scotland

A small number of influential actors appear to have secured a monopoly on how sex and gender identity are understood within Scottish policy-making.”

The report is not critical of the actions of LGBT groups in lobbying government. "Lobbying in good faith on behalf of a particular interest group is a legitimate activity in a democracy," the authors state.

But they claim government should weigh and balance the needs of all interest groups and this has not been done. An example, they say, is the failure to consider whether gender self-ID policies might be "open to abuse by individuals with malign intent, irrespective of gender identity". The authors say "there is evidence to suggest that failing to anticipate such abuse is naiive".

The article concludes that the Scottish Government should review the adequacy of its institutional safeguards against well-organised lobbying. 

A spokesman for the Government said the Scottish Government was developing guidance to help realise the rights of both women and trans people and Cabinet Secretary for Equalities Shirley-Anne Somerville had reopened a consultation on its proposed reforms to gender recognition laws.

"The Cabinet Secretary said the Scottish Government would consult later this year on a draft Gender Recognition Bill, and this would include a full Equality Impact Assessment," the spokesman added.

Read more: Gender self-ID law 'could run out of time'

But the gender reform debate has been a contentious topic even within the SNP government. This continued last week, when the SNP's National Women’s and Equalities Convener Fiona Robertson faced significant criticism online, including from SNP supporters,  after she described a controversial Canadian trans activist as a “female predator” and said Jessica Yaniv should not be misgendered.

Yaniv is a transwoman who has been pursuing a number of businesses offering waxing services to women, after they would not offer the same service to her, because she is male bodied. Feminist campaigners say women should not be legally required to provide intimate services to a male-bodied person who declares they are a woman. 

Catriona Stewart: Trans rights questions in Yaniv male genitals waxing case must be answered in Scotland

n a debate on Twitter, Ms Robertson insisted Yaniv was  a “female predator” and that such people often “used their womanhood as a way to access victims”. But critics have accused her of being an apologist for male violence.

When the Herald approached Joan McAlpine MSP, she said she had been ‘inundated’ with messages from female party members who disagreed with the women and equalities convener’s comments. “While there are female predators, they are exceptional," she said.
"To somehow suggest males and females are equally likely to offend simply because there are a tiny number of sexual female predators is absurd, and dangerous because it minimises the social reality of male violence."

Ms McAlpine said Ms Robertson's 'offence' was then compounded by saying female predators use their femininity to harm other people. "That sounds like the assertion a men’s rights activist would make, to try and deny male violence by blaming women. No one with any understanding of violence against women and girls would say such a thing and it certainly isn't a feminist argument."

She added: "Of course most men don’t commit violence against women and girls, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that  around 98 per cent of sexual assaults are committed by men as are most violent crimes. Any analysis of society has to recognise that reality. How can you tackle the systemic nature of male violence against women if you are saying 'women do this too?'"

Read more: Gender self-ID law 'could run out of time'

Ms Robertson's comments were also criticised by Simon Fanshawe OBE, co-founder of Stonewall, who replied to her: “You surely understand that this is not about a ‘bad apple’, it’s about precedent.  If a male bodied person by self-id info can force women into what is effectively sex work (ie touching genitalia) on the basis of identity discrimination that is wholly bad for women.”

Ms Robertson later clarified her statements online, accusing critics of misrepresenting her. “There’s absolutely nothing in what I’ve said that implies sexual violence isn’t a gendered phenomenon which is overwhelmingly committed by men,” she said.