SIR Keir Starmer has said he does support reforms in Scotland allowing 16 year olds to change their legal gender.

The Labour leader told the BBC he believed it was too young for such a decision to be made though he was in favour of modernising the legislation for the rest of the UK to remove some of the "indignities" for people who want to legally change their gender.

"As far as the Scotland provision is concerned I do have concerns about one the age of transition reduced now to 16 and we put amendments forward in relation to that and also on the primacy of the equality act which is very important when it comes to safe spaces," he told Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg this morning.

"But across the whole of the area, I think we should modernise the law.

"I think we need a respectful debate that recognises the different arguments that are being made. At the moment, this is being treated as a political football from start to finish and I don't think that actually advances the cause of anyone."

Asked about whether someone was old enough to change their gender at 16, he said: "No, I don't think you are."

He said Labour's position was to "modernise the legislation to take out the indignities" involved with changing gender.

Mr Starmer said he would wait to see what action the UK Government would take when asked whether he would block Scotland's gender recognition laws if he was prime minister.

His reservations over the reforms put him at odds with the party in Scotland, which backed the legislation during a vote in the Scottish Parliament before Christmas.

The Scottish Greens's hit back at the Labour leader's comments accusing him of "repeating Tory myths" about gender recognition reform and "showing a total disregard for devolution".  

The party's equalities spokeswoman Maggie Chapman MSP said: "This is a shameful intervention from the Labour leader, who is showing a total disregard for the rights of trans people in Scotland and beyond.

"He is repeating toxic Tory talking points and legitimising the views of a hostile and anti-trans government that is threatening to overrule the Scottish Parliament.

"This is also an issue of democracy. Starmer is ignoring the views of the vast majority of the Scottish Parliament, including the Labour MSPs who rightly backed the Bill.

"The message that he is sending is that trans rights are not safe under Labour and nor is devolution. A lot of people in Scotland will never forgive him if he lines up with the Tories to block what is a small but important step for equality. 

"Under his short tenure, Starmer has ditched almost every policy that Labour members elected him on. Whether it is his new-found support for Brexit, his U-turns on public ownership or his hostility to devolution, it is clear that he cannot be trusted.”

The reforms, backed in Holyrood by 86 votes to 39, lower the age from 18 to 16, in line with wider Scots law on legal capacity, at which a person can obtain a gender recognition certificate and remove the need for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria.

They also reduce the time someone must live in their acquired gender before they can apply, from two years to three months (six months for 16 and 17 year olds), and also introduce a mandatory three month reflection period and a requirement for the applicant to confirm after the end of that period that they wish to proceed with the application before the application can be determined.

Similar systems of "self-identification" have already been brought in in Ireland and France and come after many transgender people have said the process is overly medicalised, complex, intrusive and invasive.

But some opponents of the reforms are concerned about their possible impact on the rights of women to have single sex spaces and services under equality legislation.

Concerns have also been raised by critics that "bad actors" such as male sexual predators who would seek to access services for women or male prisoners hoping to get moved to a women's prison either to target women or to carry out their sentence in what they may consider a less challenging regime.

Reports have said the legislation is expected to be formally blocked by the UK government this week.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Alister Jack, the Scottish Secretary, are believed to be persuaded that the bill passed by MSPs should not get royal assent on the basis that it would undermine UK-wide equality laws.

This weekend Mr Jack is still considering final legal advice prior to writing to cabinet colleagues for their backing for use of a section 35 order under the Scotland Act to block the gender reform bill later this week.

It is understood that the advice from the UK government’s Scottish legal adviser, the advocate general Lord Stewart of Dirleton, has concluded that the legislation will have an adverse impact on UK law, giving ministers the green light to block it.

Critics also fear it could lead to gender tourism.