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Sunak 'ensuring safety of women and kids' by blocking Scots trans law

Rishi Sunak says he is ‘ensuring the safety of women and children’ by blocking Scottish gender law as SNP accuses him of ‘seeking to stoke a culture war’ against ‘marginalised’ trans people

  • The Prime Minister was accused by the SNP of ‘seeking to stoke a culture war’
  • Plan to use Scotland Act to block Holyrood’s Gender Recognition Reform Act
  • Law passed by Scottish Parliament would let teens legally alter gender from 16
  • Sunak told MPs: ‘This is simply about ensuring the safety of women and children’

Rishi Sunak insisted today that he was protecting women and children by blocking Scottish gender reform legislation from becoming law.

The Prime Minister was accused by the SNP of ‘seeking to stoke a culture war’ against ‘marginalised’ trans people over his decision to veto the bill passed by Holyrood.

The Government is to use Section 35 of the Scotland Act to prevent the Gender Recognition Reform Act – which would allow teens to legally alter their gender from the age of 16 – from gaining royal assent.

It would be the first time such powers have been used since Holyrood was established in 1999, but is likely to face a legal challenge from Nicola Sturgeon.

At Prime Minister’s Questions today in the Commons, SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn said: ‘Let me be crystal clear, this is the Conservative Party seeking to stoke a culture war against some of the most marginalised people in society and Scotland’s democracy is simply collateral damage’.

He asked if the move put Scotland ‘on a slippery slope from devolution to direct rule’, prompting Mr Sunak to hit back, saying: ‘No, of course we’re not. 

‘This is simply about protecting UK-wide legislation about ensuring the safety of women and children.’


The Prime Minister was accused by the SNP of ‘seeking to stoke a culture war’ against ‘marginalised’ trans people over his decision to veto the bill passed by Holyrood.

Mr Sunak does not have any plans to meet Nicola Sturgeon about the blocking of the gender recognition legislation, Downing Street said later.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman told reporters: ‘We would certainly, as the Prime Minister said, want to engage with the Scottish Government on ways to take this forward and improve the legislation.

‘There are no plans for the Prime Minister to speak to the First Minister that I’m aware of currently.’

It came as Labour’s split over gender rights deepened today, when a former justice minister described the veto as ‘a nuclear weapon used in a minor skirmish’.

Lord Falconer, who was Lord Chancellor under Tony Blair, said the Prime Minister’s use of devolved powers to stop Holyrood’s Gender Recognition Reform Act from receiving Royal Assent was not justified.

But his comments online last night came after a day where deep splits in the party over the rights of transgender Brits were exposed. 

Canterbury MP Rosie Duffield was jeered in the Commons by Labour MPs as well as the SNP as she backed the Government’s decision to block the Scottish parliament’s legislation.

Meanwhile party leader Sir Keir Starmer has yet to publicly reveal where he stands on the legal move. On Sunday he said he disagreed with parts of the Scottish law involving lowering the age at which people can legally change gender to 16.

The Government’s decision to use Section 35 of the Scotland Act to prevent the Bill from gaining royal assent is the first time such powers have been used since Holyrood was established in 1999. 

In a series of tweets last night Lord Falconer outlined his opposition to the move. Whether the s35 Order is justified depends on reasons advanced by (the government) for saying (the new law) has adverse effect on UK equality law,’ he said.

‘For the reasons I have tweeted those reasons do not begin to justify its use. It’s a nuclear weapon used in a minor skirmish.’

Lord Falconer, who was Lord Chancellor under Tony Blair, said the Prime Minister’s use of devolved powers to stop Holyrood’s Gender Recognition Reform Act from receiving Royal Assent was not justified.

Party leader Sir Keir Starmer has yet to publicly reveal where he stands on the legal move. On Sunday he said he disagreed with parts of the Scottish law involving lowering the age at which people can legally change gender to 16.

Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has already branded the move a ‘full-frontal attack on our democratically-elected Scottish Parliament and its ability to make its own decisions on devolved matters’.

She told the BBC the decision will ‘inevitably end up in court’. In Westminster, the UK Government was understood to be braced for drawn-out legal wrangling.

Ms Duffield was attacked after asking the Scottish secretary Alister Jack to ‘recognise the strength of feeling amongst women, women’s rights’ groups and activists in Scotland, that this Bill seeks to allow anyone at all to legally self-identify as either sex and therefore enter all spaces, including those necessarily segregated by sex, such as domestic violence settings, changing rooms and prisons’.

She had to raise her voice as she was heckled by Labour and SNP MPs who support the Scottish plan. 

Former Labour cabinet minister Ben Bradshaw shouted ‘absolute rubbish’ as she spoke, while fellow Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle also appeared to be trying to shout her down.

Canterbury MP Rosie Duffield was jeered in the Commons as she backed the Government’s decision to block the Scottish parliament’s gender identification legislation

Shadow armed forces minister Luke Pollard and former frontbencher Charlotte Nichols could also be seen shaking their heads in dissent. 

Mr Jack said Ms Duffield ‘deserves a lot of respect for her courage on standing up on this issue’. Writing later on Twitter, Ms Duffield said: ‘Being shouted down in the Chamber by Labour men who clearly don’t want women to speak up for our rights to single-sex spaces. How very progressive.’

She added: ‘The protection of single sex spaces for the most vulnerable women are at stake, so why on earth are Labour colleagues OK with this?’

The Labour leadership was unwilling to say whether it backed the Government stance.

Shadow Scottish secretary Ian Murray dodged the issue and accused ministers of turning the row into a political ‘bun fight’.

The prominent Labour MP asked the Scottish secretary Alister Jack to ‘recognise the strength of feeling amongst women, women’s rights’ groups and activists in Scotland’

Shadow culture secretary Lucy Powell flatly refused to reveal her views on the issue. She told Times Radio there were ‘a range of different opinions across Labour’, adding: ‘I have my own views, which I’m going to keep to myself… I’m not going to answer because I don’t want to reduce this argument to that.’

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was yesterday accused of ‘weaponising vulnerable children’, as she vowed to take the Government to court for blocking gender self-identification.

Amid angry scenes in the Commons, Tory MPs claimed the SNP was stoking the row about trans rights in a cynical ‘pursuit of their separatist agenda’.

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack told MPs the decision to block the bill followed legal advice it would have ‘serious adverse effects’ on provisions in the Equality Act

The accusation came as the SNP leader vowed to fight the Government all the way to the Supreme Court over its ‘outrageous’ decision to veto a Scottish parliament law, the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill, that paved the way for gender self-identification. She said the row would ‘inevitably end up in court’.

Ms Sturgeon accused the Government of mounting ‘a direct attack on… Scottish parliament’, adding: ‘If it is allowed to happen on this, then I think that is a very slippery slope.’

The Scottish secretary told MPs the decision to block the bill followed legal advice it would have ‘serious adverse effects’ on provisions in the Equality Act that guarantee women’s access to single-sex spaces.

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