NICOLA Sturgeon has refused to intervene to stop children as young as 11 in being given puberty blocking drugs in Scotland.

The First Minister said she would leave those decisions to clinicians, despite a recent legal case halting the practice south of the border.

Ms Sturgeon also refused to say if she thought children under 16 had the legal capacity to agree to such life-changing treatment.

Puberty blockers are prescribed to some young people experiencing gender dysphoria, the sense that their gender identity does not match their biological sex.

But there are concerns that children wishing to transition to a new gender may not fully understand the irreversible effects on their physiology and sexuality.

In a ruling applying in England and Wales, three High Court judges said this month that under-16s were unlikely to be able to give informed consent to such drugs.

"It is doubtful that a child aged 14 or 15 could understand and weigh the long-term risks and consequences of the administration of puberty blockers," they said.

It prompted the only NHS Trust which administers the drugs in England, the Tavistock and Portman, to immediately suspend its referrals for under-16s.

One of those who brought the case against the Tavistock was Keira Bell, 23 who started taking puberty blockers at 16 as part of a "brash decision as a teenager", had a double mastectomy, and has now transitioned back to being a woman.

But the only Scottish NHS clinic involved in prescribing the drugs said it would not be reviewing its practice.

The Sandyford Sexual Health Clinic in Glasgow, which has seen a rise in referrals for children in recent years, but does not accept referrals from England, said it would continue to refer children for the drugs based on thorough checks after a gender dysphoria diagnosis.

Earlier this week, the Tory MSP Murdo Fraser said it would be “unacceptable" if young people in Scotland did not the same protections as those south of the border.

At FMQs today, Labour MSP Jenny Marra asked what the Scottish Government’s position was on the issue.

Ms Sturgeon said: “Decisions on treatment pathways are best made by clinicians in consultation with patients, and following all the appropriate guidelines. 

“It is not the role of the Scottish Government to intervene in such decisions. 

“Young people can be considered for puberty blockers only after thorough psychological and endocrine assessment, as per the clinical guidelines, and anyone who commences them continues to receive regular psychological review and support appointments.”

Ms Marra said: “Law and society do not deem children to have capacity to consent to sex or marriage. 

“Last week, the High Court said that neither do they have the capacity to consent to life-altering, fertility-changing drugs until they are aged 16. 

“However, we know that, in the Sandyford clinic in Glasgow, NHS Scotland continues to give such drugs to children as young as 11. 

“Given her legal background, can the First Minister tell me whether she agrees that children lack the legal capacity to give informed consent to receiving such drugs? 

“If she does, will she use her power to instruct the national health service in Scotland to stop giving them to our children?”

Ms Sturgeon said it would “not be appropriate” for her to comment on an English legal decision, and although she had been a lawyer before she was an MSP, she had no medical training.

She said: “Last week’s ruling from the High Court has no formal status in Scotland. 

“In the case of children and adolescents in Scotland, the young people’s service at Sandyford works within the existing guidelines on the treatment of young people. 

“Decisions on types of treatment are for clinicians to make. 

“I think it important that such matters are reserved to clinicians. If the Parliament wants to consider them in a policy sense, it is of course always open to it to do so.”