‘No option’ except legal challenge over block on Scots gender law, MSPs told

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The Scottish Government has “no option” except to go to court to seek to overturn UK ministers’ block on gender recognition legislation, MSPs have been told.

Social Justice Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville made a statement to Holyrood after the Scottish Government announced it would go to court to challenge the Section 35 order which involved the UK Government blocking controversial gender reforms.

She said: “We have not taken this decision lightly. We have considered it carefully. And 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.”

The UK Government has not offered any areas of amendment around the Gender Recognition Reform Bill, she said, 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.

Shirley-Anne Somerville
Shirley-Anne Somerville made the statement at the Scottish Parliament (Jane Barlow/PA)

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

The Scottish Government is seeking a judicial review of Scottish Secretary Alister Jack using a Section 35 order of the Scotland Act to prevent the Bill, which was passed by MSPs in December, from gaining royal assent.

The UK Government argues the veto was used because the legislation, which simplifies the process trans people go through to obtain legal recognition in their preferred gender, impacted on UK-wide equality laws.

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