“Never has so much been said about so few,” Cabinet Secretary Shona Robison told MSPs as she brought three long days in the Chamber to a close. 

The final days of Holyrood’s gender reform debate -- aptly summed by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon as one of the most scrutinised pieces of legislation in the history of Holyrood -- were unfortunately appropriate summary of the past six years spending trying carrying the legislation forward. 

As Labour’s Pam Duncan-Glancy put it, much of the debate has “framed the rights of trans people as a threat to the rights of women” and “created a toxic environment that has let down both causes”. 

Still, yesterday Scotland became the first part of the UK to approve a self-identification system for people who want to change their legal gender. MSPs voted overwhelmingly, 86 to 39, to pass the legislation in what LBGT+ campaigners described as “historic victory … that will transform the lives of trans people in Scotland”.

Read more: MSPs vote to approve historic gender recognition reforms

Thunderous applause broke out in the Chamber when the result of the final vote was announced yesterday, followed by protesters in the gallery shouting “shame on you” and lamenting Scotland’s “darkest day”. A reminder, not that it was needed, of the deep divisions that have emerged throughout the consideration of this legislation. 

Not to be outdone, shortly after the vote had passed, the UK Government sent out a terse reminder saying that it has not ruled out attempting to legally block the move

Many gender reform critics are proud to call themselves feminists and have flooded to parliament to protest in suffragette colours. It is clear that their opposition to the legislation felt like some kind of fight against women’s rights. But why? 

The Herald:

Self-identification as policy is not a particularly new or radical idea and it pinpoints exactly why it has generated such an ideological rupture in Scotland. Most objections to the legislation have been centred around two issues: protection of, and access to, single-sex spaces, and the extent of safeguards to prevent gender certificates being fraudulently obtained. 

As a result, much of the debate and opposition to the issue contained a conversation that fell outwith the scope of the legislation. There seemed to be a real disconnect between what the bill actually sets out to do. 

Read more: UK Government to investigate blocking gender recognition reforms

A Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC), something which has existed in Scotland for the past 17 years under Westminster laws, has never been a passport to toilets or changing rooms. There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that it ever will be. Protections in the UK Equality Act, which deals with the provision of single-sex spaces and services, remain unaffected by the reforms. 

Ms Robison has stressed that applying for a GRC under the new system would continue to be “a substantial and significant legal process”, with safeguards strengthened during the passage of the bill, and the bill “doesn’t change public policy … around provision of single-sex spaces and services”.

As she pointed out to MSPs: “Trans rights are not in competition with women’s rights and, as so often before, we can improve things for everyone when those discriminated against act as allies, not opponents.”

It is also worth remembering that there are many who do not believe the legislation goes far enough. Greens MSP Maggie Chapman, whose tireless support of the bill has been evident throughout its various stages, has repeatedly said she is frustrated by the fact the bill does not make provisions for non-binary people. 

Ms Chapman has also expressed she felt sorrow over how six years of work undergone by trans people to push the legislation forward has taken place in an “increasingly toxic environment” with a “miasma of myths”.

At a key moment in a pivotal debate, it was disheartening to see misinformation and immaturity – wilful or not – take up so much floor time in the Chamber.

Read more: Tiring, tedious and at times a real slog: Inside final three days of gender refrom debate

Yesterday, Russell Findlay told MSPs that he would go home and tell his daughter that Parliament had failed her yesterday. He was referring to the legislation backed by every other party in the Chamber but, given the Conservatives spent much of the past several days doing their best to disrupt and delay proceedings, he could have just as easily been referring to the conduct of his party.

His colleague Jamie Greene, who used the Tories’ free vote to back the reforms, said he voted knowing he had chosen the “side of history that made another human being’s life easier”. 

My hope is that, in time, we all come to realise that is exactly what happened in Holyrood yesterday.