Responding to the Scottish Government’s Gender Recognition Act consultation

13 March 2020

Carys Moseley gives a breakdown of how to respond to the Scottish Government’s consultation on reforming the Gender Recognition Act.

The Scottish Government is currently consulting again on proposals to amend the Gender Recognition Act in Scotland. It has published a draft Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill, which is printed within the consultation along with Explanatory Notes and impact assessments. We have responded to the consultation, and would encourage you to do the same using our guide printed below. You need to use the online response form linked to from the consultation website. The closing date is Tuesday 17 March.

Below we explain why the format of the consultation questions is a problem and show how to raise relevant objections and queries within that format. Our response can be accessed here.

Problems with the format of the questions

There are five consultation questions. Questions 1, 2, 4 and 5 are all open-ended questions:

‘do you have any comments on x?’

If your answer is ‘Yes’ you are invited to provide comments.

Given that the questions are about the proposals to shorten the time a person may live in their acquired (i.e. chosen) gender and the length of time required for a period of reflection prior to obtaining a Gender Recognition Certificate, this is a serious problem; these are serious issues and no clear option to accept or reject them is given.

Draft Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill

Important here is the fact that a draft bill has been published along with the consultation setting out a statutory basis for the proposed changes. This bill is clearly intended to be tabled before the Scottish Parliament during this current session, i.e. before the Scottish elections in May 2021. The SNP government has made it very clear that it wants to pass these reforms before then.

As the consultation does not give clear opportunities to accept or reject the proposals, with the exception of question 3 on whether or not to lower the age of gender recognition from 18 to 16, it seems that the Scottish government is not bound by anything said in the consultation responses. This then means that the real debate will occur once the bill gets tabled in the Scottish Parliament. At that stage, only Members of the Scottish Parliament would be allowed to make changes to the proposals.

Possible negative impact on the UK

We believe these proposals could have a negative impact on the UK as a whole and on relations with other countries, and set these concerns out below. Specifically, the fact that the bill would put the de-pathologisation of gender dysphoria – something transgender activists have long campaigned for – on a statutory footing, could lead to the introduction of a similar bill in Westminster.

There is a long history of transgender activism in Scotland influencing the rest of the UK and international institutions such as the Council of Europe. There is every reason to believe that part of the aim of introducing this bill in Scotland is to influence those who wish to table similar legislation in Westminster, and possibly even Stormont now that same-sex marriage has been forced onto Northern Ireland.

How to respond

These are the main problems with the proposals, including the bill itself. We recommend laying out these points, in your own words, under the comments section of each question.

No evidence given for superiority of self-determination model

We recommend using the points we made in response to questions 1 and 2. As a general point, the Scottish Government has not provided any evidence to substantiate its assertion that its proposals are better for people with gender dysphoria than the current system. On scientific grounds therefore it does not stand on solid ground.

The importance of medical checks

Likewise, we recommend using the points we made in response to questions 1 and 2. These points have already been made many times before, including in our response to the previous Scottish government consultation on the Gender Recognition Act.

The need to respect adolescents’ natural development

This point needs to be made for questions 1 and 2 as well as question 3, which asks whether the age for gender recognition should be lowered from 18 to 16. We provide some evidence of the fact that adolescents tend to recover from gender confusion when provided with suitable treatment and conditions.

Overseas gender recognition as a Trojan Horse

Question 4 asks for comments about the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill. One major problem is the proposed new section 8N that the bill proposed to be inserted in the Gender Recognition Act in Scotland. According to this, the fact that a person coming to live in Scotland has obtained gender recognition in another country overseas (i.e. outside the UK) is to be treated as if the person had been issued with a full Gender Recognition Certificate by the Registrar General for Scotland. The Explanatory Notes for the bill then say this:

“But this rule doesn’t apply if it would be manifestly contrary to public policy (for example, in a case where gender recognition was obtained overseas at a very young age). Whether or not a public policy exception applies will depend on the facts and circumstances, and may be determined by the courts under new section 8P.

This equivocation is a Trojan horse for allowing people to get gender recognition for children under 16 overseas then come back to Scotland and have this rubber-stamped by the courts, whose judges will have been suitably trained by transgender activists. Moving gender recognition to the courts is part of the overall strategy of the bill, and makes of judges the arbiters of public policy decisions. This is a classic transgender rights tactic, to marry strategic litigation with judicial activism.

Impact Assessments

Question 5 asks for views on the Impact Assessments provided with the consultation.

In our response we have gone through the Impact Assessments provided, including the Draft Child Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessment (CRWIA) and the one based on the Equality Act 2010.

Contrary to what the Scottish government is saying, we show that there are significant problems with the CRWIA, in that it is based on a selective (mis)interpretation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. We encourage you to study the CRWIA in detail and to respond using our response, given that the Scottish government appears to be very determined to push for the normalisation of transgenderism among children, despite stating that it will not lower the age of gender recognition below 16.

The Impact Assessment based on the characteristics listed in the Equality Act 2010 also has problems, which we set out in our response to question 5. In particular, the poor quality and paucity of evidence provided for several characteristics is deeply concerning, especially as regards disability and sex.

Absence of evidence of problems is not evidence of absence of problems

The Scottish government admits it is unaware of any studies on the outcomes of gender dysphoria treatment for people with Autistic Spectrum Disorders. This should be sufficient reason not to go ahead with proposals to make gender recognition easier.

No assessment of impact on pregnancy and maternity

It is appalling that the Scottish government has not produced ANY assessment of the impact of its proposals on pregnant women or mothers. We show that the proposals would very likely lead to public sector bodies in Scotland changing their language to talk of ‘pregnant people’ so as to avoid litigation from transgender activists supporting women who say they are ‘pregnant men’. It is also reasonable to suppose that this will be deemed as an attack on the freedom of conscience of everyone who does not want to be forced to lie about who is actually a woman. Finally, there are the public health implications of mainstreaming and mandating lying at such a fundamental level.

Confining religious freedom to freedom of worship

The Impact Assessment based on the Equality Act 2010 seems to assume that the concerns of religious bodies as they operate internally is the only serious one here. It is not. This also reveals a mindset of limiting religious freedom to freedom of worship and to disregard all the evidence and principles showing its extent and scope. Religious freedom is also about freedom of religious expression, of articulating beliefs in the public domain, and in both the public and private sectors in general.

It is very important to tell the Scottish government that transgender self-identification is in fact a belief in itself. This is exactly why it clashes with more established and comprehensive belief-systems.

Ignoring concerns about single-sex spaces

The Scottish government claims there is no evidence that allowing male-to-female transgender people into single-sex spaces would have a negative impact on women. This means it is blatantly ignoring the level of public concern about the erosion of single-sex spaces and facilities that has been going on internationally for several years now. It is regrettable that the Scottish government has set up a working group on sex and gender in official data, without having published the group’s remit or goals, as this group’s research could have formed the basis for reassessing this policy proposal altogether.

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