In the run-up to this years selection contest and the 2021 elections there have been a lot of discussions about the Scottish Government’s proposals to reform the Gender Recognition Act, and the subsequent Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) bill published by the Government.
In particular, I know many women within our Party and across Scotland have raised concerns about the Self-Identification part of the proposals, fearing it may lead to an increase in sexual assaults or an erosion of single-sex spaces.
I also know that many people within the trans community have long argued for reform of the process of obtaining a Gender Recognition Certificate, especially medical interviews that many feel are too stringent and a process that takes too long.
Some of those discussions have been sensible, calm and rational debates. Sadly, a lot of the time however, those debates have been hot-headed and often downright unpleasant. We have seen people being bullied or intimidated for sharing their thoughts or voicing concerns, notably including death threats against some of our Party’s leading MPs and Party Officers. Bullying and abuse such as this is NEVER acceptable.
I have tried my best to sit back and listen to these debates. Politicians are often very quick to speak out on issues, and I am not immune to that, but perhaps one of the most important qualities in an elected representative is that of listening to others. I have tried to do this – however in the run up to selection it is no longer tenable for me to stay quiet on such a contentious issue as this without putting down in words where I stand so that those members whose votes I am asking for can know my position.
I would not have voted for the Gender Recognition Reform Bill – not as it was presented without amendments. Edit: I also believe that single-sex spaces should be protected. I think it was right that the Government put the Bill out for more consultation and the responses to those consultations strengthened it but that more work would be needed if it does get reintroduced.
I believe the Gender Recognition Act does require reforms – but it is clear from the tone of this debate and some of the concerns raised by many voices that we must proceed carefully. Many of the issues raised are in fact wider issues than the Bill itself. I believe this may be a matter for the wider party to debate at the Conference level, so that proposals that go forward represent the consensus of the party’s members.
I believe the concerns over single-sex spaces, and concerns over the current GRC process being too long CAN be resolved without diminishing the rights of others – we can find consensus – and that which unites us is far more than that which divides – but finding an equitable solution that everyone can agree on will take more time than the current parliamentary session would have allowed.
The Bill was paused due to the Covid-19 pandemic and this was the right thing to do. Right now, our members and the public are rightly more concerned with getting through the pandemic and how we go about recovery from it as a country.
Furthermore, with the pandemic hopefully over or diminishing by then, I feel independence should be the first order of business after May 2021 if the SNP is returned as a government. The different approach taken to the pandemic here has shown the public the advantages of having our own government here in Scotland. The absolute catastrophe of Brexit with a no-deal outcome currently looking very likely has concentrated the minds of many that Scotland needs our independence. That should and must be our focus, and if selected and elected, I would seek that for the voters of Dumbarton.