NICOLA Sturgeon has insisted that there is no “persuasive or compelling” legal argument about the impact of the Gender Recognition Reform Bill on the Equality Act.

The First Minister told the BBC that despite the objections of the UK Government the new law would “not change the legal effect of a gender recognition certificate.” 

However, a second former Supreme Court judge has also now spoken out the legislation, and backed the decision to block the Bill. 

READ MORE: Sturgeon accuses Jack of acting like 'governor general'

Earlier this week, Alister Jack, the Secretary of State for Scotland released a statement of reasons explaining why they had decided to invoke Section 35 of the Scotland Act for the first time in the history of devolution. 

The Bill - passed by Holyrood just before Christmas - simplifies the process for obtaining a gender recognition certificate (GRC) by removing the need for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria.

It also reduces the length of time someone would need to live in their acquired gender from two years to less than 12 months. It also lowers the minimum age for applications from 18 to 16. 

According to the UK government, this will alter the “careful balance” of the Equality Act 2010, by removing safeguards that mean trans people can be excluded from certain single-sex spaces for women. 

Ms Sturgeon said that was incorrect. 

She said: “Can I just add perhaps an introductory point here about this supposed clash?  When we first put forward this proposal, the UK government had exactly the same plans. Under Theresa May, the UK government was planning to do exactly the same. 

“So the fact that we've ended up in a policy divergent position is not because the Scottish Government has changed its mind on this, it's because the UK Government changed its mind.”

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The First Minister said she had “not heard any argument about the impact on the Equality Act that I find in any way persuasive or compelling, because the Act does not change the legal effect of a gender recognition certificate.” 

She added: “What the UK Government has done is just veto it, an instruction to the Presiding Officer that the bill can't be sent for Royal Assent. 

“So if the argument of the UK Government was that there's an issue that needs to be decided in court, the route they have chosen to take doesn't actually do that. 

“The Secretary of State is exercising some kind of Governor General like power to block a democratic decision that the Scottish Parliament has taken.” 

Ms Sturgeon was asked if she would take responsibility if a predatory men took advantage of the new system to gain access to a single-sex space. 

The SNP leader said: “Politicians bear responsibility for any legislation they pass and the consequences of that. So of course. I don't believe that will be the case. 

“We tried very hard to listen carefully to all views in the two consultations that were held on this legislation. 

“Some of the groups that work closest with women that are subjected to violence by predatory men, domestic violence. Rape Crisis Scotland, Women's Aid Scotland, Zero Tolerance Scotland, these are groups that work with vulnerable women every single day, these organizations support this legislation.”

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Ms Sturgeon said most of the “key women's organizations in Scotland do support this legislation.” 

She added: “The fear that women have about predatory men accessing women-only spaces to abuse and attack women is very real. You don't have to show your birth certificate to access women's only spaces. 

"So the point is, this bill does not give a predatory man, any more ability to abuse women than that predatory man already has.”

Writing in The Sunday Times, Lord Sumption - a former Supreme Court justice - said  “The suggestion that the UK government’s veto is an attack on Scottish democracy is absurd. The Scottish parliament represents less than a tenth of the people of the UK.

“It would be wholly undemocratic for the Scottish tail to be allowed to wag the UK dog on issues like these.”

He said the legislation would mean some citizens having a different legal gender in different parts of the UK, depending on where they happen to be.

"This poses serious legal and practical problems for employers and public authorities operating on a UK-wide basis.

"They will have to discriminate between trans people in Scotland and the rest of the UK on such matters as equal pay, gender discrimination, tax, benefits and pensions, all of which are subject to UK-wide statutory regimes.

"These are powerful points. It is not clear what the Scottish ministers’ answer is. Unless they can think of one, their judicial review will fail. But all that we have heard from them so far is froth and rage."

Last week Lord Hope, another former Supreme Court judge, warned that the Scottish government’s chances of winning a legal challenge were “very low”.

During the interview, the First Minister was also asked if a 16 year old was capable of making a “profound decision” about changing their gender.

She said: “In Scotland right now you can choose to get married and have a child, you can join the army. 

“Additional measures were amended into the legislation so that there is greater advice and support available to what would be a tiny number of people of that age group wanting to go through this process.” 

Ms Sturgeon told the programme: “I think it is right to look at why can't a 16-year-old drink alcohol in a pub. You need to look at the particular circumstances, the physical issues around some of these things.”

She said the legislation had “probably been subject to more scrutiny than any other piece of legislation that the Scottish Parliament has passed in almost 25 years.”

The First Minister said the Scottish Government would “do everything to stand up for and defend the legislation.” 

She told the programme: “The UK government is doing this for two reasons. And frankly, it's got nothing to do with concerns about the Equality Act. 

“Firstly, shamefully disgracefully they're trying to stoke a culture war on the back of one of the most vulnerable groups in our society because they somehow think that plays well with their base ahead of a general election

“And secondly, this is part of a pattern of seeking to undermine and delegitimising the Scottish Parliament. So the issues are really important. And I feel very strongly that trans people should not be weaponised.”

Responding to the interview, Tory chairman Craig Hoy said: “If Nicola Sturgeon has found no 'compelling or persuasive' case for the UK Government issuing a Section 35 order in relation to her flawed GRR Bill, she clearly hasn’t been looking hard because Lord Hope and Lord Sumption have made just that case in recent days. 

“They, like numerous other commentators, recognise that the Secretary of State felt compelled to act because the bill impinges on equalities legislation in the rest of the UK.

“Despite this, the First Minister claims the intervention is all about ‘culture wars’ and ‘weaponising’ trans people. That’s the same Nicola Sturgeon who tried to elevate the issue into a constitutional row with her absurd rhetoric in a speech to Nationalist supporters on Thursday. 

“If anyone is exploiting trans people for political ends, it’s the First Minister.”