The British government has blocked a new law intended to allow trans people to Scotland to change their legal sex without a medical diagnosis – a controversial decision which has fueled the already emotional debate over Scottish independence.
Scottish Secretary Alister Jack announced on Monday that Westminster had taken the highly unusual decision to block the Scottish Bill from becoming law because he was concerned about its impact on equality laws across the Kingdom -United.
Here’s what you need to know:
Scotland passed a new law in December to make legal gender reassignment easier.
Under the current system, trans people must go through a number of steps to change the gender marker in their documents. They must have a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria – a condition defined by the distress caused by the discrepancy between a person’s body and their gender identity – and prove that they live in the sex they have chosen since. two years. They must also be at least 18 years old.
The new rules would remove the requirement for a medical diagnosis and instead move to self-determination. The waiting time would be reduced from two years to six months and the age limit lowered to 16 years.
Activists have long argued that the current process is too bureaucratic, expensive and intrusive. The Scottish government has held two major public consultations on the issue and proposed new, simpler rules.
“We believe trans people should not have to go through a process that can be degrading, intrusive, painful and stressful to be legally recognized as their lived gender,” the government said when proposing the new rules.
In the end, an overwhelming majority of Scottish lawmakers voted for the change – the final tally was 86 for, 39 against.
The bill elicited an emotional reaction from both sides. The debate on the proposal was one of the longest and most heated in the history of the Scottish Parliament and the final vote had to be postponed after being interrupted by protesters shouting “shame on you” at lawmakers.
Many human rights and equality organizations and activists have welcomed the new rules, pointing to the growing number of democratic countries where self-determination is the norm.
The Equality Network, a leading Scottish LGBTI rights group, said that “after years of increasingly public prejudice against trans people, things have started to move forward”.
But the bill has also drawn widespread criticism, including from ‘Harry Potter’ author JK Rowling, who said the law could have a detrimental effect on the rights of women and girls.
Rowling and other opponents of the bill argue that the new rules will weaken protections for spaces designed for women to feel safe, such as women-only shelters.
The Scottish government has rejected that argument, saying the law does not change the rules on who can and cannot access single-sex spaces. He also said the experiences of countries that have made similar changes have shown no negative impact on other groups.
The activists accepted. “There are no downsides,” campaign group Stonewall said. “For example, when Ireland did this, no one else was affected except trans people who, for the first time, were able to have their gender recognized in a simple and empowering way by the ‘State.”
Scotland has a devolved government, which means that many, but not all, decisions are made in the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood, Edinburgh.
Scots can pass their own laws on issues such as health, education and the environment, while the UK Parliament in Westminster remains in charge of issues such as defence, national security, migration and foreign policy .
The UK Government can prevent Scottish Bills from becoming law, but only in a few very specific cases – for example if they believe the Scottish Bill would be incompatible with any international agreement, with the interests of defense and national security, or if he feels that the bill would conflict with UK-wide law on a matter which is outside the powers of Scotland.
Under rules that define how Scotland is governed, London has four weeks to review a bill after it is passed by Holyrood, after which it is sent to the King for Royal Assent, the final formal step that must take place before it becomes law. .
The issue is highly controversial as tensions between London and Edinburgh over the issue of Scottish independence are already high.
When Scotland last held a referendum in 2014, voters rejected the prospect of independence by 55% to 45%.
However, things have changed since then, mainly due to Brexit.
Scots voted to stay in the EU in the 2016 referendum and the pro-independence Scottish National Party argued that Scots were kicked out of the European Union against their will, pushing for a new vote for independence.
The British government has said it will not accept a new vote on independence and the British Supreme Court ruled in November that the Scottish government cannot unilaterally organize a second referendum on independence.
This is breaking news and will be updated.