Campaigners to take ministers to court over controversial Bill that will let men self-declare as women
CAMPAIGNERS are taking the Scottish Government to court over a decision by SNP ministers to change the definition of a woman.
For Women Scotland (FWS) has won the right to a judicial review of Holyrood legislation that allows transgender men to be considered female.
Judges at the Court of Session will now decide whether the reconfiguration of the traditional sexes is legal, with a first hearing set for January.
The case will once again pit the Government l awyers against human rights QC Aidan O’Neill, who successfully argued for the Supreme Court to strike down the SNP’s controversial Named Person scheme in 2016.
Equalities law is reserved to Westminster and FWS – which is appealing to the public to help fund its action – claims SNP ministers overstepped their powers by redefining the term ‘woman’ in a statute passed in 2018. This breach of the Scotland Act should have been spotted and prevented, it insists.
Last night, FWS said it was ‘shameful’ that governments on both sides of the Border had ‘left ordinary women with the task of defending our legal rights at personal and financial cost’, adding: ‘It should not be possible for the Scottish Government to redefine protected characteristics in discrete legislation nor undermine UK equality law.
‘We object to the wholesale redefinition of women, which was done at the request of a lobby group, and without public consultation or parliamentary scrutiny.’
The Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) Act 2018 seeks to enforce greater female representation on the boards of public bodies. But in a glossary of definitions, it states that the term ‘woman’ includes ‘a person who has the protected characteristic of gender reassignment if… the person is living as a woman and is proposing to undergo, is undergoing or has undergone a process (or part of a process) for the purpose of becoming female’.
FWS claims this sentence has – illegally – ripped up thousands of years of tradition and decades of equalities law, all done by the back door.
The group added: ‘ This has encouraged similar misuses of the protected characteristic of sex in l egislation that i s progressing through the Scottish parliament.
‘For example, the Forensic Medical Services Bill states “gender” rather than “sex” and is, therefore, unable t o guarantee f emale doctors for rape victims, plus the forthcoming census proposes selfidentification of sex.
‘The Equality Act 2010 states “sex” is a reference to a man or a woman and defines woman as “a female of any age”. Maintaining this definition is key to maintaining women’s rights and protections.’
The Bill would allow a man to self- declare as a woman without making any physical changes.
UK ministers axed similar plans for England and Wales last month.
Due to the Covid pandemic, Scottish ministers have put on hold plans to make it easier for Scots to officially change identity.
Pausing the Scots Bill is believed to have prevented a number of resignations from within the SNP, with sections of the party at odds over the issue. Harry Potter author JK Rowling has also voiced concerns about changing definitions of a woman, saying: ‘If sex isn’t real, there’s no same- sex attraction. If sex isn’t real, the lived reality of women globally is erased.’ She added: ‘It isn’t hate to speak the truth.’
Miss Rowling publicly supported fellow writer Maya Forstater, who lost her job at a thinktank for stating: ‘Men can’t change into women.’
‘Maintaining women’s rights’
Concern: Writer JK Rowling