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GRA Reform

The UK can’t ignore Scotland’s gender recognition Bill

The UK government cannot and must not abrogate its responsibilities to the people of Scotland who have a right to single sex services

On Monday* we learned that Gender Recognition Certificates (GRCs) issued in Scotland might not be accepted in England and Wales. Last month Scotland passed its contentious Gender Recognition Reform Bill, which means that anyone over the age of 16 can legally change their gender after three months, even if they don’t have a diagnosis of gender dysphoria.  

But now, according to the TimesUK government sources say that unless the Scottish government amends its legislation and requires someone to have a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria, Scottish gender recognition certificates won’t be recognised in the rest of the UK.

The UK government may think this is the ‘Legoland driving licence’ solution to gender recognition, with Scotland issuing GRCs to anyone who wants one, but with those certificates having as much validity south of the border as permits issued by the Lego City Driving School on the public highway. But there is a problem that the UK government may not have considered. 

At the moment, a GRC is not designed to be produced on-demand to prove someone’s legal sex. That would defeat one key purpose of the original 2004 Gender Recognition Act – to protect the privacy of transsexual people. Section 22 of the GRA makes it an offence for officials to disclose the fact that someone has even applied for a GRC.

It was a different world in 2004. Back then it was assumed that transsexuals would want to re-integrate back into society in their ‘acquired gender’ and get on with their life. The goal was to let people move beyond transition, not wallow in it. At the time, the government assumed that there were only about 5,000 transsexual people across the UK, most of whom would have gone through a medical process of gender reassignment. 

Today, transgender people constitute a very different group. Census data released last week shows that there are far more of us – 262,000 in England and Wales alone – with a so-called gender identity different from their sex registered at birth. But the basic mechanics of the Gender Recognition Certificate process largely remain the same as in 2004. 

When a Gender Recognition Panel issues a GRC, they email a copy to the relevant office, for example the General Register Office in England and Wales, or National Records of Scotland. The relevant office then issues a new birth certificate showing a person’s new gender – male or female. Crucially, there is no indication on the new birth certificate that someone has changed their gender. 

If Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP government gets its way, anyone born in Scotland will soon be able to apply for a Scottish GRC – simply because they want one – and then will receive a new birth certificate from National Records Scotland. England and Wales might decide not to recognise Scottish GRCs but they can’t refuse to recognise Scottish birth certificates. 

The Equality Act 2010 – legislation reserved to Westminster – allows providers to deliver single-sex services where they can be objectively justified. But those rights are compromised if service providers cannot prove that the holder of a GRC is not the sex they are claiming to be. A transwoman might look like a man, sound like a man and walk like a man, but if their birth certificate says they are female, their paperwork will not distinguish them from a woman. 

That has been an ongoing conundrum since the UK started issuing GRCs almost 20 years ago, but the Scottish GRR bill is a game-changer because it removes all checks and balances from the process. Now the Bill has been passed, it is likely that many more GRCs will be issued in Scotland, to a far more diverse group of people. 

Refusing to accept Scottish GRCs in the rest of the UK is an unworkable solution. But even if we could contain the problem, Scotland is just as much a part of the UK as England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The UK government cannot and must not abrogate its responsibilities to the people of Scotland who have a right to single sex services. 

And Scotland’s gender Bill compromises the rights of organisations to provide single-sex services throughout the UK. It should therefore be challenged by the Scotland Act. Section 35 allows UK ministers to do just that – and prohibit Holyrood’s presiding officer from submitting the Bill for royal assent. 

Yes there will be howls of outrage from the SNP, and no doubt Sturgeon would drag the matter through the courts. But what really matters is the court of public opinion, especially in Scotland. The SNP has been spoiling for a fight over sovereignty. Where better for the UK government to challenge them than over an issue that is unpopular among the people of Scotland? Polling suggests that two thirds of Scots oppose self-ID. 

And if the UK government can shine a light on the dangers of the Gender Reform Bill and the ideological capture of the Scottish government, the independence debate could be kicked into the long grass for a generation. 


Debbie Hayton is a teacher and journalist.

* This article was first published by The Spectator on 10 January 2023: The UK can’t ignore Scotland’s gender recognition Bill.

By Debbie Hayton

Physics teacher and trade unionist.

One reply on “The UK can’t ignore Scotland’s gender recognition Bill”

You are spot on DH. This is why I, and many others women, in Scotland, have been calling for the repeal of the GRA 2004. More or less everything in that act is now covered by other legislation, and it is being used by the ‘trans’ lobby and Stonewall as the springboard to subvert the Equality Act 2010 protected characteristics of ‘sex’ and ‘gender reassignment’ to negate ‘sex’ and substitute ‘reassignment with ‘identity’ which does not exist within the 2010 Act.

If the 2010 Act is subverted, all legislation pertaining to females and discrimination against them, all single-sex services, etc. will, in a domino effect, become ineffectual. In other words, females will revert back to pre single space rights. Many of us will, naturally, take ourselves out of those spaces, etc. where ‘trans’ identified men will congregate – which, of course, is the aim.

It should be possible for accurate records of birth, driving licences, offences, et al while issuing GRCs to ‘trans’ identified people that pass inspection, and while preventing any biological man from accessing female spaces. What is being done to females, one half of the population, is beyond endurance, and we are going to fight back with any and every weapon at our disposal, even if that means withdrawing our votes from parties not willing to listen to our concerns and to work out a way of allowing females complete safety, dignity and privacy as biological females. That will mean third spaces or ‘trans’ spaces. The behaviour of the ‘trans’ lobby has ruled out any compromise for many, many women, and a call is going out to put this to a referendum – quite within the powers of the Scottish government.

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