THE Scottish Government had “no option” but to challenge the UK Government veto of Holyrood’s gender reforms, the cabinet minister in charge of the legislation has said.

Shirley-Anne Somerville also revealed she would publish the legal document kickstarting the challenge after receiving permission from the courts.

She said the Scottish Government petition seeking a judicial review at the Court of Session could be issued as soon as tomorrow in the interests of transparency.

However Ms Somerville rejected a Tory party request to publish the Lord Advocate’s advice to ministers setting out the Government’s prospects of success.

She refused to put a price-tag on the challenge, but said the full costs would be made public once the action, which could ultimately go to the Supreme Court, had concluded. 

Humza Yousaf confirmed last week that, in line with his  vow to SNP members during his party’s leadership contest, he would mount a challenge by an April 17 deadline.

MSPs passed the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill before Christmas after a series of bitter, marathon sessions.

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The legislation is intended to simplify and speed up the process for a trans person to change their legal gender.

It would end the need for a medical diagnosis and rely instead on self-identification, cut the time from two years to six months, and lower the age threshold from 18 to 16. 

Advocates said it was an overdue piece of administrative reform that would improve a system that stigmatised and mistreated transgender people. 

However critics said it would undermine women’s rights and jeopardise single-sex spaces by making it impossible to exclude predatory biological males masquerading as women.

In January, the Scottish Secretary Alister Jack blocked the GRR Bill from becoming law by making an order under Section 35 of the 1998 Scotland Act for the first time.

He argued that although the Bill covered a devolved area, it would nevertheless adversely affect UK-wide equality legislation which was reserved to Westminster.  

The Scottish Government had until the beginning of this week to seek a judicial review at the Court of  Session to challenge the decision-making behind the Section 35 Order.

The loser of the case would be able to appeal to the Court’s Inner House and then to the Supreme Court, a journey likely to cost hundreds of thousands of taxpayer pounds.

If the Scottish Government succeeds in setting the Section 35 order aside, it could prove unpopualr with the public, most of whom oppose the Bill's reforms.

Explaining the Scottish Government’s decision, Social Justice Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “We have not taken this decision lightly. We have considered it carefully. 

“It was clear to us in our deliberations that allowing the UK Government’s veto on the democratic decisions of this Parliament to go unchallenged would undermine our democracy.”

She said the UK Government had not offered any areas of amendment to make the GRR Bill acceptable to London, adding: “That cannot go unchallenged because of the implications for future legislation and for devolution, particularly as the Secretary of State refused our offers to work on potential changes to the Bill.

“To this day, I can confirm the UK Government has not offered up a single area for amendment that would satisfy them in relation to the issue of gender recognition reform.

“Therefore, if we want to take a stand and protect our democracy and devolution, there is no option but to pursue this legal challenge.”

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She acknowledged not all MSPs or members of the public agreed with the GRR Bill’s aims, but said defending devolved law from London overreach was vital.

Tory MSP Donald Cameron said: “It is deeply disappointing that the Scottish Government has chosen to challenge the Section 35 Order in the courts, in a transparent attempt to divert attention from the serious crisis engulfing the SNP.

“A lengthy and expensive litigation is the wrong choice. It doesn’t benefit the trans community, it doesn’t benefit women, and it doesn’t benefit the Scottish taxpayer.

“Lord Hope, one of Scotland’s most eminent judges, has described the prospects of success here as ‘very low’ and implied it is a waste of public money.

“The Scottish Government was warned of the impact of the GRR Bill on the UK Equality Act during the passage of the Bill, and yet ploughed on regardless.

“Despite the UK Government publishing its very detailed statement of reasons behind its decision, we are yet to see the details of the Scottish Government’s legal position.

“If it is in the public interest for the Scottish Government to challenge the section 35 order then it logically follows that it is also in the public interest for the Scottish Government to publish its legal advice. 

“It was disappointing – yet predictable – that Shirley-Anne Somerville refused to say whether the Lord Advocate has given legal advice on the prospects of success, or the estimated cost of this latest unnecessary and self-serving SNP legal action.”

But Green MSP Maggie Chapman said: “The UK Government has acted disgracefully. This challenge is vital for the rights of trans people and for Scotland’s democracy. It should be supported by everyone who believes in human rights and devolution.

“The challenge comes at a time when Westminster is spreading the most disgraceful disinformation about trans people and is threatening to roll back on basic rights that have existed for many years.

“The Tories are clearly acting in bad faith, and clearly have no intention of genuine discussion. They are using the Section 35 Order as a weapon in their cynical and hateful culture war against trans people and the wider LGBTQIA+ community.

“Trans people have waited far too long for rights that many of us take for granted. We cannot undo the pain that has been caused but we can build a better and more inclusive future. GRR is a vital step on that journey.”

A UK Government spokesperson said: "The UK Government will robustly defend the decision to prevent the Scottish Government's Gender Recognition Reform Bill from becoming law.

"The Scottish Secretary made the order under Section 35 of the Scotland Act 1998 after thorough and careful consideration of all the relevant advice and the policy implications.

"He was very clear in the accompanying Statement of Reasons how the Bill would have an adverse effect on reserved matters, including on the operation of the law as it applies to Great Britain-wide equalities protections.

“The use of the power is entirely within the devolution settlement as set out from its inception, with cross party support.”