THE Scottish Government's controversial gender reform bill has been passed.
The new legislation means anyone aged 16 or over in Scotland can change the sex on their birth certificate needed after a six-month process – simply by signing a legal declaration.
Holyrood voted to approve the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill, which would allow transgender people to self-identify, after days of debate and heated scenes at the parliament.
Backers hailed the Bill as a major step forward for trans people, arguing it will reduce their torment compared to the current two-year process for ages 18 and over where a medical diagnosis is needed.
But furious critics warn it could lead to predators accessing female-only spaces and are angry about male-bodied people legally becoming women.
As MSPs voted by 86 votes to 39 to pass the bill, there were some shouts of "shame on you" from the public gallery.
But there was also applause from supporters of the reforms as it was passed.
The new law will remove the need for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria before obtaining of a gender recognition certificate (GRC).
It will also lower the minimum age for applying for such a certificate from 18 to 16, and bring down the time a person is required to live in their acquired gender.
Social Justice Secretary Shona Robison said: “This is an historic day for equality in Scotland with the Gender Recognition Reform Bill being approved by parliament and by members of all parties.
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“It simplifies and improves the process for a trans person to obtain a gender recognition certificate – which many currently find intrusive, medicalised and bureaucratic.
“The legislation makes no change to the reserved Equality Act 2010 and that principle is enshrined in the Bill. As I have made clear, the Scottish Government continues to support the provision of single-sex services and the rights of women.
“The passing of this bill is a significant step forward in creating a more equal Scotland, where trans people feel valued, included and empowered.”
But the passing came amid warnings the UK Government could challenge the new law and prevent it getting on the statute books, as it effectively risks altering UK-wide equality rules.
Scottish Conservative equalities spokesperson Rachael Hamilton MSP said: “The majority of Scots – let alone the women’s groups who campaigned vociferously against it – will be dismayed that this flawed and potentially dangerous bill has been passed by a majority of SNP and Labour MSPs.
“We all support improving the experience for trans people but that should never come at the expense of the safety of women and girls, and their hard-won rights.
“But Nicola Sturgeon’s bill – in the form that it has been passed – does put their safety at risk.
“For a majority of MSPs to vote against an amendment that would have prevented convicted sex offenders from applying for a Gender Recognition Certificate will astonish and outrage most Scots.
“The fact that no substantive amendments to the legislation were passed demonstrates how impervious many MSPs – particularly from the SNP and Greens – were to reasoned argument and public opinion on this divisive issue."
We told yesterday how YouGov polling this month found just 20 per cent of Scots voters are in favour of self-ID, 21 per cent in favour of cutting the age limit to 16.
At First Minister’s Questions earlier today, before the Bill was passed, Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross said: "While there may be a majority in this chamber later today to support this legislation, a majority of the public oppose the Bill."
But Ms Sturgeon said previous research had indicated support and said: “I will never apologise for trying to spread equality, not reduce it, in our country."
Meanwhile, sources warned of a potential UK Government legal challenge because institutions elsewhere could be found to be in breach of the UK-wide Equality Act if they refuse to recognise a Scottish gender recognition certificate.
A senior Whitehall insider, speaking to The Times, gave the example of a biologically male Scottish prisoner in an English jail requesting to be transferred to a female prison after being granted a gender recognition certificate under the Scottish self-ID scheme.
The source said: “The prison could be in breach of the Equality Act if they deny the request.”
The insider also gave the example of employers, schools or colleges refusing to recognise the new gender of Scottish-born people who self-ID and request to use single-sex facilities.
They said: "We have not experienced an act in the Scottish parliament that would have direct divergence effects undermining Westminster rules before in quite this way. Who knows where we will end up?"
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Another UK Government source said: "This will put us on a constitutional collision course with Holyrood."
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