EQUALITY campaigners are seeking to intervene in a “hurtful and pointless” court battle over women's representation on public boards.

The Scottish Trans Alliance want to provide a submission to an upcoming legal challenge over the Gender Representation on Public Boards Act 2018.

The Act is supposed to improve gender equality within Scottish public bodies, by requiring 50 per cent of non-executive board members to be women.

However two years after the law was introduced, campaigners For Women Scotland (FWS) are arguing that the Scottish Government did not have the right to introduce it as equalities legislation is reserved to Westminster.

FWS also argue that the Act has been used to bring in legal “self-identification of sex” by the back door, and say the Scottish Government has redefined the definition of a woman in the legislation.

It comes after years of furious debate over the gender recognition act, which is still under consideration at Holyrood, and discussions around transgender women being included in activities and legislation aimed at women in general. 

FWS have been granted a judicial review by the Court of Session, to challenge and potentially repeal the law.

Scottish Trans Alliance has now asked to intervene in the case, seeking permission to provide evidence to the judicial review, arguing they have a unique perspective on the current law which should be considered.

Legal heavyweight Dorothy Bain QC, as well Gwyneth King, senior solicitor at JustRight Scotland's Scottish Law Centre will be acting for Scottish Trans.

The equality group is concerned that not only would a repeal or modification of the existing law be detrimental to transgender women, who currently hold no positions on public boards in Scotland, but would roll back rights for all women in Scotland. 

Vic Valentine, manager of Scottish Trans, explained: “If the court throws out this legislation it will set back the rights of all women – not just trans women – to take part in public life in Scotland. We believe all women should have their voices heard by public bodies, and trans women should not be singled out to be excluded.

“Trans people deserve the same dignity and privacy as everyone else. Why should we have to reveal intimate details about our history just so we can, say, sit on the board for the Accounts Commission or the National Library?

“This law was passed two years ago, and as far as we’re aware there have been no complaints or concerns about how it is working.

“To our knowledge, there are also currently no trans people serving on public boards anywhere in Scotland, which makes this attack particularly hurtful and pointless.

“This case is counterproductive.”

Speaking to the Herald, senior solicitor Ms King said the case was “illogical”.

She explained: “We've made an application to intervene in this case in the public interest, and it's quite a high threshold to get permission to do that.

“You have to show that you can bring something relevant and useful to the court that isn't going to be raised by the respondent, in this case Scottish Ministers and the Lord Advocate.

“The Act is just about public life, about participating in public boards, it is nothing to do with gender recognition or safe spaces.

“FWS basically spell out in their petition that they want either a full or partial reduction of the full version of the Act. A full reduction would mean that it was erased for all women, not just transgender women.

“This Equal Opportunities measure is designed to promote equality of opportunity for all women on public boards in Scotland. Seeking for it to be erased is just illogical.”

A hearing will take place at the court of Session on Thursday, shortly after which the Scottish Trans Alliance should find out whether they are allowed to intervene in the judicial review. 

FWS said: "We only received a copy of Scottish Trans Alliance's application yesterday and it's currently with our QC Aidan O'Neill for consideration."