THOSE fraudulently obtaining a gender recognition certificate will face a “harsher punishment” in the courts under updated plans backed by SNP ministers.

The Scottish Government is legislating to speed up the process for transgender people to acquire a gender recognition certificate – doing away with outdated medical panels and the need for a gender dysphoria diagnosis.

Under the plans, backed by all parties at Holyrood except the Conservatives, trans people can self-ID and will be required to make a statutory declaration regarding their legal status.

The proposals have no impact on exemptions under the Equalities Act or access to single-sex spaces - with a certificate not needed to enter any of these venues.

The draft legislation already makes fraudently obtaining a certificate an offence.

Conservative MSP Jamie Greene, who has broken party ranks to back the principles of the bill, has proposed an “aggravator” in the courts to “act as a deterrent” to people fraudulently applying for a gender recognition certificate.

But he insisted the aggravator “does not alter in any way the general principles of the bill or the process of obtaining a GRC”.

Speaking at Holyrood’s Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee, which is considering stage two of the proposals, Mr Greene stressed he backed the principles of the legislation to “make the process less humiliating” for trans people.

He added: “That simplification of the process does remove steps that currently exist that maybe seen to some as potential safeguards and barriers to individuals with malicious intentions.”

Mr Greene stressed the importance of “a sensible balance which acknowledges that by default the new process is easier but it also sends a strong message that abuse of that new system simply will not be tolerated”.

He added: “It creates an aggravator which effectively will deliver a harsher punishment and sentence on those who use the GRC process to enable them to commit other serious crimes.”

Mr Greene said his amendment will “introduce a much-needed counter-balance to address some of the concerns voiced over this new process”.

But Greens MSP and vice-convener of the committee, Maggie Chapman, voted against the amendment being attached – claiming it was “deeply problematic”.

She added: “A judge can always take all circumstances into account when deciding on sentencing.

“There is no need for this or any specific aggravating factor to be included.”

SNP Social Justice Secretary Shona Robison supported Mr Greene’s amendment.

She said: “This bill already includes offences of knowingly making a false statutory declaration or including other false information on an applications in a GRC.

“The person will be in court because of the crime they commit.”

Ms Robison added that an aggravator “would be appropriate because of the seriousness” of the fraudulent application.

She added that the move “sends out a very clear message that that would be a very serious offence indeed”.

Ms Robison also agreed that ministers will carry out a review into the legislation every three years, backing an amendment tabled by Labour MSP Pam Duncan-Glancy.

Ms Duncan-Glancy said: “This amendment is designed to scrutinise many areas of concern in the bill so that should they come to pass, parliament can address them.”

The Labour MSP added that the amendment calls on ministers “to consider whether there should be provisions for non-binary people” in the legislation, adding that “not including them has been a concern for many”.

Ms Robison backed the amendment that will “place a duty on ministers to initiate a review of the act within three years of commencement”, adding that it was “an appropriate timescale for ensuring an effective review”.

MSPs also backed another amendment by Ms Duncan-Glancy which added "for the avoidance of doubt that the bill does not modify the entirety" of the Equalities Act.

The Act allows for exemptions to be applied in allowing trans people to access single-sex spaces such as domestic abuse refuges or changing rooms.

Throughout the process, the Scottish Government has said the Bill would not change the current exemptions for single-sex spaces, but Ms Duncan-Glancy’s amendment places such an assertion on the face of the Bill.

Ms Duncan-Glancy said: “It’s Scottish Labour’s view that the Equality Act is reserved, cannot be altered by devolved legislation and therefore it is our understanding that these protections will and must still apply if the Bill passes.

“This is a matter of great importance for many people concerned about the current reforms and we recognise their desire for reassurance.

“This protection allows for the operation of single-sex spaces, works as an exemption to the right not to be discriminated against on the basis of sex or gender reassignment but only when it’s a proportionate response to meeting a legitimate aim.”

Ms Robison told the committee that the new process for obtaining a gender recognition certificate does not alter the effect of having one under the current set-up and has no impact on the Equalities Act.

She added: "The amendment in name of Pam Duncan-Glancy provides, for the avoidance of doubt, that the Bill does not modify the 2010 Act, so I can support this amendment if the committee chooses to agree to it.

“It covers the entirety of the 2010 Act rather than specifying sections or elements.”