AFTER being at the mercy of events since becoming First Minister, Humza Yousaf finally appeared to get on the front foot today and took what could prove a defining decision.

Delivering on a promise to SNP members in the party’s leadership contest, the First Minister launched a legal challenge against the UK Government.

At issue is London’s veto of the Gender Recognition Reform Bill (GRR) which was passed by MSPs in a series of bitter marathon sittings just before Christmas.

The legislation is intended to simplify the process for a transgender person to obtain a certificate recognising their preferred gender in the eyes of the law.

In essence, it would replace a verification system with an honesty system.

Instead of a gender recognition certificate (GRC) requiring a medical diagnosis, a person would be able to get one by declaring they were living in a new gender, known as self-ID.

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Advocates say it is an overdue, sympathetic change to a heartless administrative process. 

Critics argue it undermines hard-won women’s rights and jeopardises single-sex spaces such as women’s refugees, which could be opened up to cynical, predatory biological males who would use a GRC as a passport to offending. 

In January, Scottish Secretary Alister Jack made an unprecedented order under Section 35 of the Scotland Act, arguing the Bill would have an adverse impact on UK-wide equality law.

This stopped the Bill becoming law. 

Nicola Sturgeon called it a “full frontal attack” on devolution.

However in February, the Isla Bryson case exposed the limits of honesty systems when they come up against dishonest people.

Although not a beneficiary of the GRR Bill, Bryson’s self-declaration as a woman was taken at face value by the Scottish Prison Service despite a conviction for two rapes.

Bryson, previously known as Adam Graham, had only changed gender after being charged. 

When they were sent to Cornton Vale women’s prison, it caused an outrage, and even Ms Sturgeon had to agree it looked as if Bryson was trying to game the system.

It caused many in the SNP to reassess the wisdom of the frozen GRR legislation.

The SNP leadership contest highlighted splits in the party, with Kate Forbes and Ash Regan both opposed to legal action.

But Mr Yousaf declared it was a matter of principle to challenge the veto, and as ‘First Activist’ he would do so, provided his legal advice wasn’t fatal to the idea. 

It showed he was the most “progressive” candidate (a dig at Ms Forbes’s conservative views on social issues), as well as his desire to keep working with the pro-GRR Scottish Greens.

Besides, he may have thought...

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