THE three experts providing intellectual rigour for women’s sex-based rights are meeting me in the basement flat of an Edinburgh suburb.

I can’t be more specific than this because they’ve previously been subject to unwelcome attention for challenging the Scottish Government on this issue. I can safely say that it’s one of the city’s leafier suburbs because, well … that could apply to any of about 50 neighbourhoods in Edinburgh.

Dr Kath Murray, Dr Lucy Hunter Blackburn and Lisa Mackenzie are collectively known as MBM. They’re the academic and research collective which, in the course of the last five years, has effectively scrutinised and dismantled the Scottish Government’s rationale for permitting men to identify as women in its GRR legislation.

They make an unlikely rebel alliance. Two of them: Hunter Blackburn and Mackenzie have worked at various levels within the Scottish and UK governments in the threshing-rooms where policy gets sculpted into something workable and legally waterproof.

Murray is a highly-respected criminologist and academic. Most of their work is now with MBM, having discovered that being out and proud as feminists was becoming bad for the health of their careers and, in some quarters, their reputations.

They share a common interest in criminal justice and, in particular how the system can exclude and entrap society’s most vulnerable and marginalised women.

The Herald:

In the five years since MBM was established one consequence of the debate around self-ID and women’s protected spaces has become clear to them. Says Hunter Blackburn: “Some of the women’s groups who have found common cause in opposing self-ID were campaigning for women’s rights in the 1960s and 1970s and can’t believe they’re now back to where they started.”

Could they have foreseen back in 2018 what they were getting themselves into? “Absolutely not,” says Mackenzie. “To begin with, we had concerns over the Census Bill and what self-ID might portend for women. We began pulling a thread and it just kept on coming. Very soon we realised that it was almost endless.”

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One of these threads began to expose the implications of self-ID for women’s prisons. They wrote up what they were finding and, as Dr Murray described it, “being very old fashioned about it.”

“We put in FoI requests then wrote an article for Scottish Affairs. The more we looked at it the more we sensed something was going badly off the rails here.

“The census took us into data collection: the police, criminal justice. We were seeing how various organisations and public authorities were changing their collection practices.”

Mackenzie added: “I first looked at Scottish prisons policy which had come into place in 2014, two years after the Angiolini Report. This was concerned with the vulnerability of women in prison: the sort of people they were; their trauma and how so many of them were victims of male violence.

“Then two years later Scottish Prisons policy basically says that if a male prisoner says he’s a woman you should presume to move him into the women’s estate. Unbelievably, there was nothing in the Equality Impact Assessment dealing with women prisoners.

“When I requested a Freedom of Information request in 2018 it revealed they’d approached the Scottish Trans Alliance and Stonewall. And though they’d listed the protected characteristics in the Equality Act they hadn’t even bothered to tick ‘sex’.”

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What was beginning to unfold before their eyes was a textbook formula for secretly capturing policy and working against the interest of vulnerable women before being delivered right under the noses of an unsuspecting population.

So that that by the time it’s inevitably discovered, it’s become so embedded in the system that any attempts to scrutinise it are met by howls of ridicule amidst accusations of bigotry … mainly by men.

She added: “There was no consideration about the potential impact of this on female prisoners or female prison officers who would now be forced to do intimate body searches on people who were male. How did this happen? At that point, the debate began to kick off at UK level, but getting it into the press was very hard work.

“The Scottish Government had started the consultation on GRA but was ignoring all the implications of it for women, saying that it was merely a technical fix.”

Dr Hunter Blackburn, the former senior government policy-maker, said: “It didn’t have enough quality for a government product. Lots of stuff was undefined and they were merely skating around other issues.”

I suggest that there seemed to be a sinister aspect to much of this; that it had the flavour of something cooking for many years prior to insinuating itself clandestinely into national policy frameworks.

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They pick their words carefully here and are reluctant to describe it as sinister, but agree that dismantling women’s sex-based rights was part of a strategy that had been unfolding over decades. Said Dr Hunter Blackburn: “We had a group of people who were very convinced that what you felt yourself to be was more important than anything else. They were active in politics for decades. If you look at the Equality Network here, it was set up from the very start on gender identity. It’s not an add-on, unlike Stonewall which changed course.

“Of course, there was a job of work to do around gay rights because the culture in Scotland on this was lagging, but gender identity over sex was becoming baked into this.”

In 2007, the Yogyakarta Principles sought to codify human rights in the area of gender identity. It’s since been portrayed as an international treaty and used as such by powerful lobbying groups seeking to influence governments. “It’s not a treaty,” she added.

“It arose from a gathering of very determined and well-organised lobbyists in an Indonesian hotel. Their own admitted technique was to proceed under the radar and through the back door. All other policies on minority rights, such as gay rights have come openly through the front door. But this had come round the back and away from plain sight.”

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Dr Murray, whose work as a criminologist had explored issues around the marginalisation of vulnerable groups in the justice system, points out that they were quite open about their strategy. “They knew that if they could implement these policies in prisons then they’d soon be able to roll them out in our hospitals and our schools and our sports organisations.

“What’s chilling is the way an entire political class has embraced this, even when presented with hard facts that would compel any reasonable person to urge caution.”

In the years to come Kath Murray, Lucy Hunter Blackburn and Lisa Mackenzie would discover that ordinary women raising concerns about this would have doors shut in their faces. “Many politicians treated these women, who were their constituents, with contempt.”

Tomorrow: How Police Scotland have been captured by gender ideology; the abject failure of Scottish Government policy-making; the hostile environment extreme male gender activists are using to target older women.