Sinead Daly, Socialist Party Scotland
On 22 December 2022, the Scottish parliament overwhelmingly passed the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill (GRR).
In response, the Westminster Tory government has undemocratically blocked this legislation.
This move comes at the same time as Sunak and his increasingly authoritarian government push ahead with more anti-union legislation.
These are the actions of reactionary political forces clamping down on democratic rights. They hope to sow division as part of the so-called ‘culture wars’ and to undermine support for the Scottish National Party (SNP) and independence in Scotland ahead of a general election that the SNP wants to fight as a de-facto referendum.
It is the first time any legislation from Holyrood has been blocked by Westminster.
SNP first minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “If there is a decision to challenge, then in my view it will quite simply be a political decision and it will be using trans people, already one of the most vulnerable stigmatised groups in our society, as a political weapon.”
The Tories blocking of the GRR will be widely seen as completely undemocratic. It sends a loud message that effectively Westminster can arbitrarily overrule decisions made at Holyrood. This will provoke protests across Scotland which Socialist Party Scotland will support.
After the UK Supreme Court’s decision that the Scottish parliament cannot hold a legal referendum on Scottish independence, this latest move will further inflame the national question and increase support for independence.
Labour won’t fight for trans rights
Labour leader Keir Starmer gave succour to the Tories when he said: “I have concerns about the provision in Scotland, in particular the age reduction to 16”.
On the threat by the Tories to block the legislation, Starmer said he wanted to wait and see what UK ministers decided to do.
This puts him at odds with Scottish Labour MSPs who voted to back the legislation at Holyrood, including the decision to lower the age to 16.
The GRR is a limited reform but it is an important step forward. Socialist Party Scotland supports measures to make it easier to self-declare in relation to gender.
In reality, being able to legally change gender has been in place in Scotland since 2005. The GRR doesn’t change that but it does make the process much simpler.
Scotland is the first nation in the UK to have a system of self-declaration, alongside nine other European countries which already have self-declaration systems for legal gender recognition.
What is missing from the SNP-Green Scottish government is any commitment to provide the resources to support trans people and all those facing lack of access to health, housing, education and services generally, particularly as a new round of savage cuts to public spending is being implemented.
The new legislation will mean trans people will be able to apply for a gender recognition certificate after having lived in their acquired gender for three months – or six months if they are aged 16 and 17 – rather than the current two years.
It also removes the need to have a diagnosis of gender dysphoria from doctors before transitioning – which meant trans people have had to live for years without having their gender legally accepted.
The Tories in Scotland, never known previously as defenders of the rights of women, claimed that women’s ‘sex-based rights’ and access to ‘safe spaces’ would be threatened by the GRR.
Alba, the nationalist party led by Alex Salmond, used the same language. Alba claimed the GRR was an “ultimate betrayal of hard-won women’s rights buried in a harmful piece of toxic legislation called the Gender Recognition Reform Bill.”
Yet many women’s organisations, including Women’s Aid and Rape Crisis, have pointed out they had long operated a policy of working with all women who sought out their support, including trans women.
The view of Socialist Party Scotland is that a step forward for trans people does not mean a loss of rights for women.
It’s noteworthy that the SNP-Scottish Green government that proposed the GRR also slashed the Scottish budget by £1.2 billion in October, cutting services that trans people and working-class people need the most.
The current crisis in the NHS in Scotland, with massive waiting lists and shocking lack of support for mental health services, a vital resource for trans people, falls at the feet of not just the Tories but Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish government.
In reality, all of the oppressed and the working class generally are under attack because of the failures of capitalism.
The cost-of-living crisis, massive underfunding of health, housing, education and social care impact working-class women, men, trans and LGBTQ+ people.
Scottish government cuts and Tory cuts to budgets impact massively on the services we need.
The key task socialists and trade unionists face is to unite the struggles of the working class, as the current strike wave is doing.
As well as demanding pay rises that at least match inflation, we also need to fight for council and government budgets that equate to the needs of working-class communities.
Coordinated strike action and the building of a new workers’ party, which fights for socialism to deliver the fundamental economic and social change we all need, is essential.
Only that will put an end to all forms of oppression, including the class exploitation that is the lifeblood of this rotten capitalist system.
Socialist Party members in England and Wales have raised the following demands on our leaflets at the protests:
- Fight for the right to self-identify and all the services, facilities, and rights trans and LGBTQ+ people need
- Fight all cuts to women’s services. For councils to set needs-based budgets to fund our services, including domestic violence services
- Fight for full public funding for the health services we need, including mental health. Save our NHS
- Build the strike wave to win on pay and get the Tories out. Prepare for a 24-hr general strike
- Build a new workers’ party to represent the interests of workers and the oppressed, and unite our struggles. No trust in Starmer’s Labour
- Solidarity with workers and young people fighting for an independent socialist Scotland
- Fight for a socialist alternative to the capitalist system and its division, poverty, exploitation and oppression
Protest for trans rights in London
Jules Rusevica, South West London Socialist Party
On 18 January an emergency protest was organised by London Trans Pride, and hundreds of people gathered at 10 Downing Street to show their anger towards Westminster blocking Scotland’s Gender Recognition Reform (GRR) Bill.
People stood for hours to make their position clear – we need trans liberation now!
We need a movement which will truly defend the interests of the most marginalised communities and not play political football with our lives!
The Labour Party has been completely useless – most Labour MPs abstained on the vote on whether to veto the decision of the Scottish Parliament, only eleven voted against.
We will stand for trans rights and workers’ rights.
They can’t stop us with their lies, scare us with the police or deter us with the new anti-protest laws.
This wave of protests to defend trans rights has rippled through all of the UK, and shows that people are ready to fight and are ready for an alternative!