Could this spell the end of the United Kingdom?
In a shocking and unprecedented move, Rishi Sunak is moving ahead with his plan to block the Scottish government’s recent reforms of the Gender Recognition Act (the GRA), which make it easier for people to legally change their gender.
This will be the first time ever that Westminster has attempted to block legislation passed by the Scottish government. First minister Nicola Sturgeon has described the plan as an “outrage” and is expected to mount a legal challenge. But it’s not just the SNP who are angry about this. Even though most Conservative members of Scottish parliament opposed the bill, one Tory MSP has urged Rishi Sunak to reconsider, arguing that the move “could be a gift to proponents of independence.”
He has a point: the bill passed by 86 votes to 39, so to reverse it would be a clear case of the British government overriding Scottish democracy. Moreover, the SNP included GRA reform in its last manifesto and subsequently won a majority, so it would be difficult to argue they don’t have a clear mandate to implement this change.
The bill’s purpose is to make it easier for people to obtain a gender recognition certificate, as well as lowering the age at which people can do this from 18 to 16 and eliminating the need for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria. The Tories are arguing that the GRA reform would put Scotland into conflict with the Equalities Act, which governs the whole of the UK, but supporters of the bill argue that this is not true, and that the GRA reform has no bearing whatsoever on the Equalities Act. What this represents is a government so desperate to attack trans people that they are willing to jeopardise the devolution settlement and the very basis of the union.
As such, many people have reacted to this announcement by declaring that this measure will bring on the death of the United Kingdom. Even if this is mostly tongue-in-cheek, they could well be proven right.