SCOTTISH trade union leaders have been accused of abandoning vulnerable women after rejecting a plan to exclude biological males from women-only services, such as refuges. 

The STUC’s women’s conference, which represents 500,000 workers, today voted down the proposal after it was tabled by the Paisley & District Trades Union Council.

The motion said there had been a “dilution of single sex services supporting vulnerable women and girls… promoted by most of Scotland’s leading women’s organisations.

“Many workers and users of frontline services are concerned about this trend.”

It noted Equality Law allowed for men to be excluded from certain services such as support facilities for women who have been victims of domestic violence. 

It called on the conference to “support the application of the exclusion of men to services specifically tailored to women” and to “condemn the missteps of leading women’s organisations within Scotland to protect this important provision… therefore failing to protect vulnerable service users and children”.

It also said the conference should “vow to defend women only services” and campaign for an extension of women-only services, based on needs.

The motion did not mention transgender rights directly, but was aimed squarely at the opening up of women-only spaces to transgender women - people born male who now identify as female.

The motion also coincided with Scottish Government plans to simplify the process for people to change their gender in the eyes of the law through self-identification.

Currently, a person requires a medical diagnosis and at least two years living in their adopted gender before they can obtain a gender recognition certificate.

SNP ministers plans to remove the medical element and have a six-month timeframe.

Critics of the move warn it could allow men to abuse the system by gaining access to women’s refuges and other safe spaces under an adopted gender.

The STUC Women’s Committee opposed the motion, saying it was “concerned” by some of its content, and “alarmed at some of the language used” by the proposers in supporting evidence, which the Committee said could “misgender” trans women.

It said: “Whilst the Committee appreciates the concern that abusers could exploit [the law] to gain access to victims of violence, predatory men, not trans people, are the biggest threat to women and girls safety in Scotland, and the Committee trust that most expert organisations have safeguarding policies and procedures and risk assessments in place to prevent this.

“And that most organisations have a case-by-case procedure when a trans person presents.

“The Women’s Committee is committed to addressing the issue of transgender equality and wishes to do so without the conflict, antagonism and lack of solidarity that has characterised the discussion elsewhere.”

The motion was opposed in debate by Lena Wanggren, President of the University and College Union (UCU), and rejected by the conference as a whole.

Fiona Macdonald, the mover of the motion, accused the trade union movement of pretending there was no confict between sex-based rights and trans rights.

She tweeted: “Stop shouting TWAW [Transwomen are Women] every time we talk about traumatised women and their involuntary trauma response to male bodied people. Solutions must be found.”

The Labour Women’s Declaration, which supports sex-based rights, said it was furious, shocked and saddened at “women in the trade union movement withdrawing support from women at their most vulnerable in order to display their adherence to a fashionable orthodoxy. Shame on them.”

The For Women Scotland group said the conference decision was “utterly contemptible”.

It said: “We cannot believe this cowardly response to women in the movement who simply want to ensure their legal rights are respected.”

Susan Dalgety, a former special adviser to Labour First Minister Jack McConnell, wrote on her blog: “Women campaigned for decades to secure safe, single sex services for women and girls traumatised by sexual abuse, rape and violence.

“It is hard to believe that, nearly one hundred years after the Women’s Committee was set up in 1927, today’s committee has abandoned women at their most vulnerable.

“Male violence is a terrible reality for many women. That is why we need single-sex spaces. It is not bigoted to ask that they are protected. Or transphobic. It’s practical feminism. It’s solidarity with our sisters.

“Something the STUC Women’s Committee seems to have abandoned.”