A landmark court case which could have major implications on Scottish devolution has been decided today.

The Scottish Government has lost its case at the Court of Session against the UK Government's blocking of the its Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill

After hearing evidence from both sides in September, judge Lady Haldane ruled on Friday (December 8) the UK Government has been within its rights to use Section 35 of the Scotland Act to block the Bill.

It was a crucial moment for Humza Yousaf and the Scottish Government, which has spent £230,000 on the legal challenge it launched as a matter of principle.

However, this might not be the end of the legal battle, with the option for the Scottish Government to take its case to a higher court

It's a complicated issue, but here are the key arguments involved, what the case is about, and what GRR means in Scotland.

What is the Gender Recognition Reform Bill? What changes does it propose?

The Herald: A trans rights protestA trans rights protest (Image: PA)

The Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill is a piece of legislation which aims to make it easier for transgender people in Scotland to be legally recognised under their acquired gender. 

It proposes to simplify the process for trans people to receive a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC), which enables them to be issued with a new birth certificate. 

Having a GRC makes it easier for trans people to deal with admin issues and legal difficulties such as marriage, paying taxes, getting pensions, and even being buried. 

Read more: Landmark court ruling on Holyrood gender reform veto due tomorrow

Key changes proposed in the GRR Bill include lowering the minimum age of applicants from 18 to 16, which the Scottish Government argues will help improve the lives of young trans people. 

And, instead of two years, applicants would have to demonstrate they have been living in their acquired gender for at least three months before applying, and that they intend to live permanently in their acquired gender. 

The current process under the UK Gender Recognition Act (2004) has been described as "lengthy and intrusive", and can take up to five years.

Read more: The Gender Recognition Reform court case explained in five minutes

It requires applicants to have psychiatric interviews, medical diagnoses of gender dysphoria, and have their circumstances considered by a Gender Recognition Panel. 

If the applicant is married, consent of their partner is also currently required for them to receive a GRC. 

Instead, under GRR Bill, applications would have to be made to the Register General for Scotland and a medical diagnosis would be replaced with self-declaration, also known as self-ID. 

Why is the GRR Bill in Scotland so controversial?

The Herald: Gender-critical feminists have raised concerns about the impact on women's rightsGender-critical feminists have raised concerns about the impact on women's rights (Image: PA)

The GRR Bill has been described as the most contentious pieces of legislation to ever go before Scottish Parliament. 

It has inflamed a debate about the impact of trans rights on women's rights. There is concern gender reform could lead to the removal of single-sex services for women.

Gender-critical feminists argue predatory men could abuse the new rules to enter single-sex spaces like prisons, refuges, sports clubs, and public toilets.

However, the Scottish Government has said such spaces would still be protected separately under the Equality Act (2010), which allows communal accommodation and other single-sex services to exclude trans people when proportionate. 

The GRR Bill also creates an offence of making a false statutory declaration or making a false application for gender recognition, with penalties of up to two years' imprisonment and an unlimited fine.

Why is there a court case over the GRR Bill?

The Herald: Allister JackAllister Jack

In December 2022, MSPs passed the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill by 86 votes to 39. 

However, Scottish Secretary Alister Jack blocked it by making an order under Section 35 of the Scotland Act 1998, the first time it had been done. 

Mr Jack and the UK Government argued the Bill, which would only apply to Scotland, would create problems with different equality laws in different parts of the UK. 

In response, the Scottish Government launched a legal challenge which was judged at the Court of Session on Friday (December 8). 

Lady Haldane's 65 page opinion ruled in favour of the UK Government, stating it had been within its rights to block the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill. 

Now, however, Humza Yousaf's government could take the case to the Supreme Court.