Women in Scotland are angry. Yesterday [20 July 2021*], hundreds gathered by the McLennan Arch on Glasgow Green where their sense of betrayal was palpable.
The gathering was precipitated by the ongoing case against Marion Millar, a businesswoman from Airdrie, who came under police investigation after objections were raised about six of her tweets from 2019. She was charged under the Communications Act and faces up to six months in prison if convicted.
According to a report by the Times, the messages investigated by officers are understood to include a retweeted photograph of a bow of ribbons in the green, white and purple colours of the Suffragettes, tied around a tree outside the Glasgow studio where a BBC soap opera is shot.
The case is ongoing. Millar was supposed to be in court again yesterday, but last week the hearing was put back until August. That, however, did not stop her supporters pouring into the city to show their solidarity. Some were local, others had travelled from distant parts of Scotland. One woman had come all the way from South Uist in the Outer Hebrides. English accents added to the mix – Millar’s case has generated widespread interest.
The symbolism of yesterday’s protest taking place on Glasgow Green was unmistakable. It was here in 1872 that women – and men – gathered for the first large-scale women’s suffrage meeting in Glasgow. In the intervening 150 years, women may have secured the vote, but parity with men is still to be achieved.
Under Nicola Sturgeon, many women fear that their rights are going backwards. Speaker after speaker expressed the concerns that many hold – that the Scottish government has been hoodwinked by transgender activists and cares little about the views of women who object to the impact policy changes will have on their sex. The refrain from the platform was clear, ‘Women won’t Wheesht’ (shut up).
They are right to worry, and right not to be silent. There is much to lose, even the right to the word ‘woman’ itself. Nicola Sturgeon’s Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) Act 2018 defines women as a person who ‘is living as a woman and is proposing to undergo, is undergoing or has undergone a process (or part of a process) for the purpose of becoming female.’
Becoming female? The mind boggles. Not only am I transgender but I am a science teacher and I still don’t get what the Scottish government is getting at. Nobody can become female unless they started as female. The Scottish government is legislating on the basis of fantasy.
Among the speakers at the Glasgow event was Alison Dowling – a sitting Labour councillor from west of Glasgow. She told The Spectator that she had spoken, ‘to stand in solidarity with women and male allies who reject the destruction of the concept that sex matters in law and in life.’
Dowling added that while she was willing to speak up:
‘many elected representatives are too fearful to speak publicly on these issues, even if they privately agree, as the backlash can be brutal. This is matter of conscience for me, so I’ll continue to debate the issues publicly and hopefully encourage other politicians to find their voice.’Councillor Alison Dowling
They must. Because women are suffering appalling abuse when they speak out. This week JK Rowling re-entered the fray to speak about the death threats she has received for speaking about gender and sex. Her comments unleashed yet more fury from transgender activists.
Shockingly, death threats are not unusual in this debate. But they should never be tolerated.
Women, however, perceive a playing field that is far from level. While transgender activists operate with impunity, women find themselves under threat of cancellation or worse for stepping out of line. When ‘Women won’t Wheesht’ stickers appeared in Kirkcaldy earlier this year, Police Scotland were straight on the case, offering to arrange their removal.
Yesterday in Glasgow, Millar’s supporters were doing anything but wheesht. Upholding women’s rights to maintain single sex-spaces is central to their campaign. There are times and places when women need the security that comes with the knowledge that they are exclusively in the company of their own sex.
In Scotland, that is not something they can rely on. Even the Edinburgh Rape Crisis Centre is now headed up by a transgender woman. That was supposed to be a female-only role.
But yesterday was an opportunity for both sexes to show their support. Standing with women were a few men, and one or two transsexuals. Any suggestion that trans people might be unsafe because of this meeting was patent nonsense. It is women who are under siege in Scotland, and that is something that should concern everyone.
Debbie Hayton is a teacher and journalist.
* This article was first published by The Spectator on 21 July 2021: Marion Millar and Scotland’s growing hostility to women.