The debate about reform of trans gender rights has been toxic from the start on social media. Now it has moved into the mainstream political debate big time. It is splitting political parties and threatens a constitutional clash between England and Scotland that could have consequences Nicola Sturgeon didn’t bargain on.
Anyone who writes on this subject is going to anger some readers. The venom that has been brought into play is totally unjustified. I’m not worried as I no longer engage on twitter or any other social media. So here goes. I understand that the medical and consultation procedures for people with gender dysphoria can be stressful and time consuming. They should be reformed, but not in the way the Scottish government have done. I believe the process should still involve medical and psychological experts and should not be rushed. I also share the concerns of women about the potential abuse of their safe spaces. It is also true that this is an issue that concerns a very small section of the population and is being weaponised by some of the usual suspects.
Now we come to the politics and I would say there aren’t a great number of votes to be gained by the promotion of trans rights and potentially a lot to lose. Sir Keir Starmer knows this. Laura Kuenssberg gave too much time to this subject in her interview last Sunday, but it did mean that we once again saw the Labour leader on his noncommittal tightrope. Did he support his Scottish Labour MSP colleagues who’d backed the bill north of the border? Sir Keir had “concerns” and opposed the age limit of 16. He used the expression “UK Labour”. That’s the first time I’ve heard that and it could have big implications.
Up to now I thought Anas Sarwar was showing himself as the best Scottish Labour leader since Donald Dewar. What on earth is he doing backing the SNP in their highly controversial move that does not have widespread support in Scotland? We may hear more about Scottish Labour and UK Labour in the future.
Now we come to the big constitutional question. There is always a temptation to believe that the SNP are desperate for any issue to force division with Westminster. Whilst I’m sure there are many genuine trans rights campaigners in the SNP, it seems a strange issue for them to go to the wire on. The suspicion is around that this bill has the added benefit of keeping the independence issue on the boil after the Supreme Court ruled against a second independence referendum.
But I wonder if this will backfire on Ms Sturgeon?
In December, a YouGov poll showed 60% of Scots against the removal of the need for a diagnosis, 66% against the age reduction to 16 and 59% against reducing the time someone had to live in their new gender to six months.
Many may feel that if this is what the SNP are all about then it may be a good idea to stay under the UK government which is blocking the bill.