THE Westminster Government’s lawyers seem to have produced a largely spurious list of reasons why the Holyrood Gender Recognition Bill would be damaging to people in the UK ("Removal of objection points would ‘gut and destroy’ Bill", The Herald, January 19).

They were clearly trying to compete with the SNP, which works hard to milk as many grievances as possible out of anything Westminster does. I think the result of the competition is a very high-scoring draw.

But one point the London lawyers make is worth very serious attention. They argue that an increase in the number of trans women with Gender Recognition Certificates would exacerbate “existing issues with the operation of the Equality Act 2010”. It seems that, as things stand, across the UK anyone with a GRC can access women’s safe spaces. So this must include trans women who are still physically male.

This must make many women feel uncomfortable and vulnerable, even if the risk genuine trans women pose is negligible. But, more importantly, it opens the doors to women’s safe spaces to predatory males posing as trans women, with or without a fake GRC. Thus the law, as it currently stands, cannot guarantee that these safe spaces are actually safe.

So the UK already has a problem that needs to be addressed. What is urgently needed is legislation to amend the Equality Act 2010 to prohibit anyone still physically male from accessing specified women’s (and girls’) safe spaces. UK lawyers having confirmed that there are “existing issues”, the UK Government must act and amend the Equality Act. If they do, then the understandable worries that many women in Scotland have about the Holyrood bill would surely be addressed.
Alistair Easton, Edinburgh

Objections are totally political

IT seems to me that there is little light and much noise surrounding the issue of gender reform.

First, a gender recognition certificate (GRC) does not in any way affect women-only spaces, as currently any male predator who wants to cross-dress can gain access to these. No one checks GRCs at the door.

Second, the current age for marriage in Scotland is 16, but in England it is 18. This difference has existed for many years and indeed does lead to some marriage tourism. However, there is no call for the ages to be the same and this works without any problem.

The bill was voted on and achieved a significant majority in Holyrood, and is clearly supported by a majority of the elected representatives in Scotland.

Hence on two counts the objections to the bill are specious and totally political and demeaning to devolved administrations.

GRCs exist in a range of European counties. Ireland has had this facility for some years. Irish nationals can travel and work in

the UK freely. As far as I am aware there has not been any issues with GRCs affecting this process.
Andrew Lawson, Edinburgh

Does Jack know his role?

ALISTER Jack’s official job title in the UK Government is Secretary of State for Scotland (note the word "for".) As such, according to the Government’s own website, his responsibilities are to act as custodian of the Scottish devolution settlement, to represent Scottish interests within the UK Government and to advocate for the UK Government’s policies in Scotland. Oh yes, and to promote partnership and relations between the UK and Scottish governments and parliaments.

From the job description, it seems reasonable to conclude that Mr Jack is supposed to be on Scotland’s side. Sadly, his recent actions and comments in relation to the Scottish Government’s gender recognition reforms suggest otherwise.

Mr Jack seeks to block a piece of legislation which was properly, fully and democratically debated and then passed by two-thirds of our elected representatives in the Scottish Parliament; to that extent the subject matter of the legislation is academic. In doing so, he seems to me to be motivated much more by the somewhat nebulous interests of the wider UK than by his constitutional responsibilities to the people of Scotland.

There again, this is the first time in his three-year tenure that Mr Jack has had to make a decision of any real significance, let alone one of this enormity, so we should perhaps not be too surprised that he has misunderstood or forgotten his terms of reference. If the UK Government is concerned that Scotland’s gender recognition reforms might compromise wider UK equality legislation, surely it is for the Home Secretary, and not the Secretary of State for Scotland, to take whatever steps are felt necessary to address those concerns. The UK Government needs to get its own house in order before it goes any further.

Given the historic significance of this first ever use of Section 35 of The Scotland Act 1998, and the constitutional row that will inevitably follow, I’m not sure that this will prove to be the hapless Mr Jack’s finest moment.
Iain Stuart, Glasgow

Sturgeon has lost her way

DR David White (Letters, January 18) writes of colonial imperialism, and the Scottish Parliament’s democratic will being thwarted. All good SNP dogma.

I think what our First Minister, Dr White and others of their political persuasion forget is that much as they might wish it, we don’t have an independent legislature in Scotland. We have a devolved parliament, enacting legislation on devolved matters, and always subject to the terms of the Scotland Act, agreed to by the SNP amongst others, which provides for UK oversight and Section 35 intervention where any proposed Scottish law conflicts with UK legislation.

The First Minister’s recent cries of a “full-frontal assault on the Scottish Parliament” smack of a leader and a party who have lost their way politically and consistently failed to deliver on devolved matters which actually affect the daily lives of Scots – education, the NHS, island ferry services, and industrial strategy to name but a few.

Stick to the day job, First Minister, and stop inventing battles with the UK which don’t exist. Don Quixote suffered from similar myopia.
Richard Hunter, Cupar

• I NOTE that two of your correspondents today (Letters, January 18) accuse the UK Government (Doug Maughan) or the Scottish Government (Richard Allison) of using the reform bill to hide their incompetence in other policy matters. And additionally to stoke culture wars between the two administrations.

I think on this occasion, they are both correct.
Willie Towers, Alford

A disgraceful debate

IT was extremely sad to see and to hear in Westminster the harsh, strident tone and content of the rhetoric coming from almost all of those who opposed Alister Jack's blocking of Holyrood's Gender Recognition Reform Bill. People and parties were attacked verbally ... it was so sad, and it made me ashamed of my Scottish countrymen/women.

In contrast, Alister Jack's presence was calm, measured, and reflective, as he stuck to the point, not responding in kind by returning the abuse that was hurled in his direction.

Although it was mainly our SNP MPs who were responsible there were others from other parties who contributed to the disgraceful behaviour ... how sad.

Those of all parties who shouted, interrupted, and spoke in an abusive and harsh manner should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. If this is the quality of our "leaders", then, may God help us and deliver us from them.
Alasdair H B Fyfe, Glasgow

Time for Ross to stand down

I HAVE to say that I was more than frustrated to spot Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross on two separate days this week asking questions in the UK Parliament at Westminster. Is it any wonder that under his leadership the party is now languishing behind Scottish Labour in the polls?

In my opinion it is not possible to divide one’s time effectively between being an MP and an MSP, travelling up and down to Westminster as well as attending Holyrood.

He was forced to apologise in 2020 for missing a VJ event and in 2017 he missed a vote on Universal Credit, due to his commitments as a qualified Scottish football assistant referee, although he has now realised that he can only accept matches when parliament is not sitting. He seems to think that Conservative voters will continue to support his position regardless, however until he is replaced by a leader who can focus on the job in hand then the party’s support will continue to slide. His flip-flopping over his support for Boris Johnson will also haunt him for what remains of his hopefully short political career.

Having said all the above there is no doubt that Douglas Ross is a genuinely nice and polite person of good character but it is now time for him to make way for a successor that can be single-minded about his or her position as Leader of the Scottish Conservative Party.
Christopher H Jones, Giffnock


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