The UK Government will block a law passed by the Scottish Parliament that makes it easier for transgender people to change their legal gender.
The UK Government says it is concerned the law will conflict with existing UK laws.
Scottish Social Justice Secretary Shona Robinson called it a “dark day for trans rights and a dark day for democracy in the UK”.
Scotland is one of four nations that make up the UK, alongside England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The UK Government governs all four nations, but Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland also have their own parliaments with limited powers given to them by the UK Government.
The UK Government has never before blocked a Scottish law for conflicting with UK law.
What is the law?
Scotland’s law, passed last year, lowers barriers to legally changing gender.
It removes the requirement for a medical diagnosis of ‘gender dysphoria’ and reduces the period of time over which applicants must be able to demonstrate they have lived as the gender they’re seeking to legally recognise, from two years down to three months.
It also lowers the minimum age of application from 18 to 16 (although anyone under 18 must have lived as their acquired gender for six months).
Why was it blocked?
UK Government’s Scottish Secretary Alister Jack announced the decision yesterday, saying he was “concerned” Scotland’s law would have “an adverse impact” on UK-wide equality laws. Jack said he had written a letter to the Scottish First Minister to advise her of the decision.
The BBC has reported Jack’s letter included concerns about the law’s effect on the operation of single-sex clubs, associations and schools and equal pay laws, and also that it could encourage “fraudulent or bad faith applications”.
The Scottish Government plans to launch a legal challenge to the decision, which First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has called a “full-frontal attack” on the Scottish Parliament. Scottish Social Justice Secretary Shona Robinson called it a “dark day for trans rights and a dark day for democracy in the UK”.
There have been growing calls for Scotland to leave the UK and become an independent country. The Scottish Government is seeking to hold a referendum vote on independence, but the UK Supreme Court recently ruled it would need UK Government approval for this. A referendum in 2014 failed.