Nicola Sturgeon has been accused of ‘political posturing’ as she threatens legal action over the government blocking looser gender rules in Scotland.

The SNP leader complained about a ‘full-frontal attack’ by Westminster after ministers stepped in to stop the law passed by Holyrood causing chaos across the UK.

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack will make a statement to MPs later explaining the unprecedented intervention – with experts saying the Scottish administration overstepped the mark. 

Ms Sturgeon tweeted last night vowing to ‘defend the legislation & stand up for Scotland’s Parliament’, suggesting she will apply for a judicial review. ‘If this Westminster veto succeeds, it will be first of many,’ she said. 

However, critics swiped that she was seeking a ‘constitutional fight’ to gain political ground. In a round of interviews this morning, Education Secretary Gillian Keegan insisted it was not possible to have ‘competing’ legislation on gender and equality. 

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had warned the UK Government against blocking the gender identity legislation

Nicola Sturgeon hit out at a 'full-frontal attack' on Holyrood and vowed her Scottish Government would continue to defend the gender legislation

Nicola Sturgeon hit out at a ‘full-frontal attack’ on Holyrood and vowed her Scottish Government would continue to defend the gender legislation

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack and Rishi Sunak near Inverness last week

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack and Rishi Sunak near Inverness last week

Alister Jack wrote to Ms Sturgeon yesterday to inform her of the UK Government's decision

Alister Jack wrote to Ms Sturgeon yesterday to inform her of the UK Government’s decision

Sturgeon blasts Starmer over gender bill ‘concerns’ 

Nicola Sturgeon turned her fire on Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer today after he admitted to ‘concerns’ about the bill.

The First Minister accused Sir Keir of failing to stand up to the Tories. 

Pointing out that Scottish Labour MSPs had voted for the bill, she said if Sir Keir was to support a block ‘he would be showing utter contempt for his own Scottish party as well as the Scottish Parliament’.

She added: ‘We will see what happens this week but these is no justification whatsoever for the action that is being talked about.’

Sir Keir today reiterated his weekend comments about the bill. Speaking to a Scottish trans activist on LBC he said: ‘I’m afraid I do think that 16 is too young. 

‘Now people would just have different views on this. But I think 16 is too young for that process … I would go for 18. The age of adulthood in most cases.’

Initially the case is set to be put to the Court of Session in Scotland, but it is likely to end up in the UK Supreme Court. 

Judges there dealt a huge blow to Ms Sturgeon at the end of last year when it ruled she could not hold another independence referendum without Westminster’s permission.

In order to prevent the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill from becoming law, the UK Government will make an order under Section 35 of the Scotland Act 1998.

The move is the first time UK ministers have used a Section 35 order since devolution more than two decades ago.

Mr Jack wrote to Ms Sturgeon yesterday to inform her of the UK Government’s decision.

‘After thorough and careful consideration of all the relevant advice and the policy implications, I am concerned that this legislation would have an adverse impact on the operation of Great Britain-wide equalities legislation,’ he said in a statement.

‘Transgender people who are going through the process to change their legal sex deserve our respect, support and understanding.

‘My decision is about the legislation’s consequences for the operation of GB-wide equalities protections and other reserved matters.

‘I have not taken this decision lightly. The bill would have a significant impact on, amongst other things, GB-wide equalities matters in Scotland, England and Wales.

‘I have concluded, therefore, that this is the necessary and correct course of action.’

Ms Sturgeon responded by tweeting: ‘This is a full-frontal attack on our democratically elected Scottish Parliament and its ability to make its own decisions on devolved matters.’

The bill allows trans people to self-identify without a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria, and lowers the minimum age that Scots can legally change their gender from 18 to 16. 

It also slashes the timescale for obtaining a gender recognition certificate (GRC) from two years to three months for over-18s.

But it has provoked fears that abusive males could take advantage of the new system, and has put Scotland on a constitutional collision course with Westminster.

The Scotland Act, which established a devolved Scottish government and parliament, gives Westminster four weeks to consider bills passed by Holyrood that could have an ‘adverse effect on the operation of the law’.

The Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill was passed by MSPs on December 22, meaning the deadline was tomorrow.

Westminster’s legal advice suggested the new measures would ‘cut across’ UK-wide legislation on equalities.

Rishi Sunak raised his concerns about the reforms with Nicola Sturgeon during a private dinner in Inverness last week

Rishi Sunak raised his concerns about the reforms with Nicola Sturgeon during a private dinner in Inverness last week

The measures passed at Holyrood have been highly controversial in Scotland as well as the rest of the UK (pictured, protests in Edinburgh last week)

The measures passed at Holyrood have been highly controversial in Scotland as well as the rest of the UK (pictured, protests in Edinburgh last week)

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross told LBC last night: ‘I would say a majority of voters, when they’re polled on this, oppose this legislation.

‘They oppose the Scottish government plans to do this.

‘They can’t understand why Nicola Sturgeon rushed it through the Scottish Parliament.’

The Scottish Tory leader said the controversial legislation blocked by the UK Government ‘seriously damages the rights of women’ and ‘has a huge impact on the UK wide Equality Act’.

When asked if he fully supported Westminster’s decision, Mr Ross added: ‘I support this decision because I want to see an improvement in this legislation that will protect women’s rights, and we’ll see legislation that can work across the United Kingdom because at the moment, people could travel from other parts of the United Kingdom to Scotland to get a gender recognition certificate for a new gender, having lived in that gender for only three months, rather than two years at the moment.

‘Crucially, (the legislation) also reduces the age from 18 to 16.

‘These are all issues that the Scottish Conservatives raised during the debate, had serious concerns about, (and) put forward reasoned amendments on it.’

Scottish Labour MP for Edinburgh South Ian Murray MP said: ‘These issues are too important to be reduced to the usual constitutional fight.

‘The Tory and SNP Governments must not use this for political posturing, but instead get round the table and find workable solutions that address legitimate concerns.’

Transgender rights charity Stonewall accused the UK Government of using the ‘nuclear option’ in response to the Scottish bill.

The charity’s chief executive, Nancy Kelley, also claimed Mr Sunak was using trans people’s lives as ‘a political football’. 

Rishi Sunak raised his concerns with Ms Sturgeon about the bill during a private dinner in Inverness last week.

Speaking to broadcasters afterwards, he said: ‘Obviously this is a very sensitive area and I know there were very robust debates and exchanges on it as the bill was passing in Scotland.

‘What I’m concerned about is the impact of the bill across the United Kingdom. As is entirely standard, the UK Government would take advice on that.

‘There may be impacts across the UK that we need to be aware of and understand the impact of them.

‘That is what we are doing, and once the Government has received final advice it will set out next steps.’

Labour has also aired concerns about the Holyrood legislation.

Sir Keir Starmer has argued that 16 is not old enough to be able to decide to change gender.

The Labour leader also expressed misgivings about the potential impact on UK-wide equalities law, but warned against the issue becoming a ‘political football’.



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