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Critics accuse Humza Yousaf of distracting SNP by pushing gender bill
Critics accuse Humza Yousaf of ‘painfully transparent’ attempt to distract from SNP civil war by pushing ahead with toxic gender bill legal challenge
- The First Minister will use taxpayers’ cash to press ahead with the legal action
- The Bill is designed to make it easier to legally change gender in Scotland
Humza Yousaf has been accused of a ‘painfully transparent’ attempt to divert attention from the party’s civil war after launching a legal challenge against Westminster’s block on gender reforms.
The First Minister will use taxpayers’ cash to press ahead with the legal action that even those within his own party say is ‘unlikely to succeed’.
The Scottish Government has declared it will lodge a petition for a judicial review into the use of the section 35 order to stop the Bill, designed to make it easier to legally change gender, from becoming law.
Tory MSP Rachel Hamilton described the decision as ‘totally divorced from reality’.
The Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Scotland also said they would ‘robustly’ defend the UK Government’s decision.
Humza Yousaf (pictured) has been accused of a ‘painfully transparent’ attempt to divert attention from the party’s civil war after launching a legal challenge against Westminster’s block on gender reforms
Scottish Conservative deputy leader Meghan Gallacher said: ‘This is a painfully transparent attempt by Humza Yousaf to divert attention from the civil war engulfing the SNP and the huge question marks over the party’s finances.
‘Desperate times call for desperate measures, so the beleaguered First Minister has reached for the Nationalists’ playbook and is manufacturing grievance with the UK Government.
‘The vast majority of Scots oppose Nicola Sturgeon’s reckless Bill because it compromises the safety of women and allows 16-year-olds to legally change gender.
‘A strong leader, acting in the national interest, would revisit and amend a profoundly flawed Bill.
‘It’s a measure of Humza Yousaf’s weakness that he has chosen the opposite course.
‘The First Minister should be focused on the real priorities of the Scottish people rather than a costly, self-serving legal battle.’
Holyrood passed the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill in December, despite a major rebellion by Nationalist MSPs.
But Scottish Secretary Alister Jack used the Scotland Act’s section 35 powers to stop the Bill from getting Royal Assent, which is required for it to become law.
Scottish Secretary Alister Jack (pictured) used the Scotland Act’s section 35 powers to stop the Bill from getting Royal Assent, which is required for it to become law
At the time, Nicola Sturgeon complained that it was a ‘full- frontal attack on our democratically elected Scottish parliament’ and insisted a court challenge was ‘inevitable’.
Mr Yousaf, widely perceived as the ‘continuity candidate’ during the bitter SNP leader contest, was the only candidate committed to a legal challenge.
Read More: Humza Yousaf vows to push on with Nicola Sturgeon’s gender identity reforms as he confirms he WILL launch legal action against PM’s block on Holyrood legislation despite warnings SNP does not ‘have a cat in hell’s chance of winning’
His rivals, Kate Forbes and Ash Regan, had warned it would be an expensive waste of taxpayers’ money, believing it would have little chance of success.
And yesterday, even those within the SNP questioned whether it was wise to mount a legal challenge against the Westminster Government.
Nationalist MP Joanna Cherry wrote on Twitter: ‘I cannot understand why the Scottish Government is taking legal action it’s unlikely to win rather than sorting out the problems with the GRR Bill at home. Reform could be effected in Scotland without breaching equality or human rights law if there was the will so to do.’
Former SNP First Minister Alex Salmond said: ‘Humza Yousaf should be taking on Westminster on self-determination, not taking on the Scottish people on self-identification. He has embarked on the ultimate lose/lose gambit. If he loses the case, he is humiliated by Westminster. If he wins it, he loses with the Scottish people.’
Earlier, former SNP health secretary Alex Neil said numerous lawyers had told him there is ‘not a cat in hell’s chance of winning’ a legal challenge.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the UK Government had taken ‘very careful and considered advice’ on the issue before acting.
Pictured: Supporters of the For Women Scotland and the Scottish Feminist Network taking part in a demonstration outside the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh
He added: ‘We had concerns, as the UK Government – the Secretary of State – set this out at the time, about how Scotland’s Gender Recognition Act would interact with reserved powers, about the operation of the Equalities Act, the protection of women elsewhere in the UK as well.
‘That’s why we took the decision to block the GRR. Obviously there’s a court process; we will follow that through.’
Following the Scottish Government’s announcement, Mr Jack said: ‘The UK Government will robustly defend the decision to prevent the Scottish Government’s Gender Recognition Reform Bill from becoming law.
‘I made the order under section 35 of the Scotland Act 1998 after thorough and careful consideration of all the relevant advice and the policy implications.
‘I was very clear how the Bill would have an adverse effect on reserved matters, including on the operation of the law as it applies to Great Britain-wide equalities protections.’
The Scottish Government’s Bill, passed by 86 votes to 39, would make it easier to obtain a gender recognition certificate, allowing Scots to apply from the age of 16 and without medical involvement, relying on self-identification.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the UK Government had taken ‘very careful and considered advice’ on the issue before acting
Opposition attempts to include an automatic block on convicted criminals and those accused of sexual crimes or violence against women were voted down by SNP and Green MSPs.
Announcing the legal challenge, Social Justice Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said: ‘The use of section 35 is an unprecedented challenge to the Scottish parliament’s ability to legislate on clearly devolved matters and it risks setting a dangerous precedent.
‘In seeking to uphold the democratic will of the parliament and defend devolution, Scottish ministers will lodge a petition for a judicial review of the Secretary of State for Scotland’s decision.’
Polling published in February revealed nearly twice as many Scots oppose the reforms as support them, and the public also supports the decision of UK ministers to veto the Bill.
The survey, by Ipsos, found that 50 per cent of Scots agreed that the UK Government was right to intervene, while 33 per cent said it should not have.
Scottish Labour equalities spokesman Paul O’Kane said: ‘A fraught and expensive legal battle could have been avoided if both of our governments had been more willing to work in good faith to deliver a Bill that works for everyone.’
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