FEWER than one in five voters in Scotland support a court challenge to the UK government’s veto of a Holyrood bill to reform gender laws, according to a new poll.

Throughout his campaign to be leader of the SNP and First Minister, Humza Yousaf championed a court challenge to the UK government’s Section 35 order that blocked the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill, which will allow people to change gender more quickly.

The Conservative Government said the legislation encroached on equalities legislation, which includes provision to protect the rights of women to single sex spaces, such as hospital wards, changing rooms and toilets, in Scotland and across the UK, and is reserved to Westminster.

Kate Forbes, his main rival, supported a compromise and Ash Regan, the third candidate wanted to drop a court action completely.

The Scottish Greens made challenging the block essential to their party continuing with the co-operation deal with the SNP in Holyrood made under the Bute House Agreement.

READ MORE: Humza Yousaf faces 15 rebel SNP MSPs prepared to challenge government

Mr Yousaf underlined what he regarded as the importance of the arrangement with the Greens throughout the leadership contest, though in later debates, Mr Yousaf said he would not go to the courts if legal advice suggested said it would fail. After being elected SNP leader on Monday the MSP for Glasgow Pollok restated his commitment to challenge the order.

The deadline for lodging a judicial review into the veto falls is April 17, shortly after the Scottish Parliament returns from its Easter recess which runs until April 16.

This means it is likely that last Friday’s meeting of the Cabinet will be the only full gathering of Mr Yousaf’s new ministerial team before the decision has to be taken on court action.

Neil Gray, who was Mr Yousaf's campaign manager during the SNP leadership contest and is now cabinet secretary for the well being economy, fair work and energy, was asked about the new government's plans this morning.


Asked on the BBC's Sunday Show, if the government would be pushing ahead with court action against the Section 35 order, which stopped the bill from getting royal assent, Mr Gray said: "We have got to make sure we look at what is possible.
"I think the first principle is ensuring we challenge the first use of the Section 35 power and we make sure we look at the advice that is available and make a decision in the coming weeks...We have a very short window before that decision needs to be taken."

He added that he believed Scots would understand the need to protect the Scottish Parliament's right to legislate in an area he said was within Holyrood's responsibilities.

"We will make sure we set out in due course as the time limit comes up about the decision which we take," he said.

Scottish Conservative equalities spokeswoman Rachael Hamilton MSP said: "The SNP railroaded their deeply unpopular gender reform bill through Parliament and now it appears they want to bypass any further scrutiny from MSPs.

"A senior member of Humza Yousaf's government is openly hinting that they would rather continue playing constitutional games rather than working constructively to fix this reckless legislation.

"Everyone wants to improve the lives of transgender people but this bill was deeply unpopular with people across Scotland because it risks the safety of women and girls.

"The UK Government were left with little option to intervene because of the impact on equalities legislation across the country.

"Humza Yousaf should reflect on this, rather than trying to pick another fight with the UK Government."

Research by Panelbase for the Sunday Times found that 18 per cent believe Yousaf should launch a legal challenge against the UK government’s decision to block the legislation.

Instead, 44 per cent say he should abandon the bill completely, 24 per cent think a compromise should be found with the UK government and 14 per cent of those surveyed said they didn’t know.

Excluding undecideds, 51 per cent thought the law, which would introduce a policy of self-identification and lowers the age at which a person can legally change their gender to 16, should be dropped altogether.

READ MORE: Scottish Tories call for tactical voting to end SNP dominance

Even among SNP voters in the poll, 35 per cent supported Mr Yousaf’s view, while 28 per cent wanted a compromise with the UK and 26 per cent said that the bill should be dropped completely. Eleven per cent said they didn’t know.

The First Minister’s spokesman has said he did not expect legal advice on challenging the UK government to be published and that the full cabinet will not have to meet for a decision to be taken on the best way forward.

According to the Panelbase findings gender recognition reform is a priority for a tiny number of Scots with only four per cent saying it should be one of Mr Yousaf’s main priorities.

Meanwhile, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said transgender rights should not be allowed to over-ride women's rights.

Speaking about Holyrood's Gender Recognition Reform Bill, which proposed self-identification for those wishing to change their legal gender, he told the Sunday Times today: “The lesson from Scotland is that if you can’t take the public with you on a journey of reform, then you’re probably not on the right journey. And that’s why I think that collectively there ought to be a reset in Scotland.”

Scottish Labour backed the reforms but in Holyrood but the party told its MPs to abstain when the SNP brought forward a motion to challenge the UK Government's use of the Section 35 order.

Discussing the legislation, Mr Starmer said: "I think there is a fear that somehow there could be the rolling back of some of the things that have been won. There are still many battles that need to go ahead for women and I don’t think we should roll anything back.

"I think we should go on to win the next battles for women. And that is a very important sort of starting point for this debate.”

He added: “There are some people who identify as a different gender to the one they are born with. It’s a very small number and that is why the Gender Recognition Act was passed [in 2004].

“To recognise that they need legal support and a framework and most people don’t disagree with that, and that’s the framework within which we ought to look at these issues. But simply turning it into a toxic divide advances the cause of no one, the cause of women or those that don’t identify with the gender that they were born into.

"And it’s also a pattern of behaviour of the last ten years which is now turning everything into a toxic culture, when it possibly can, which is the last resort of politicians who have nothing substantive to say on the issue.”