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Next government should lift block on Scotland’s gender reforms, says Swinney

The UK Government blocked the gender reforms after they were passed by MSPs at Holyrood.

John Swinney and Kaukab Stewart marching at Edinburgh Pride 2024

The next UK government should lift its block on Scotland’s gender reforms, First Minister John Swinney has said.

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack issued a Section 35 order to stop the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill from being given Royal Assent.

The controversial legislation was passed by MSPs in December 2022 and would have removed the requirement for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria for those seeking a gender recognition certificate, while also lowering the minimum age and the length of time required for them to live in their acquired gender.

The Scottish Government lost a legal challenge to the order in the Court of Session and refused to push the issue further.

The Scottish Greens, fierce supporters of the changes, called for the next UK government to allow the Bill to become law.

Speaking after marching in Edinburgh Pride on Saturday, First Minister John Swinney echoed those calls.

“The Scottish Parliament has legislated on the changes on gender recognition, and I think it’s important that the democratic wishes of the Scottish Parliament are respected,” he said.

“But clearly there is a legal issue that’s got to be addressed and that can only be addressed by the United Kingdom Government, but I want the legislation that’s been passed by the Scottish Parliament to be put into effect.”

He added: “I want the UK Government to remove the obstacles that prevent the Scottish Parliament being able to implement the legislation Parliament has passed.”

But such a move looks unlikely after Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, whose party enjoys a large lead in opinion polls ahead of the July 4 election, refused to rescind the order if he reaches Downing Street.

“No, there would be no change of position on that,” he told journalists during a visit to Scotland on Friday.

“I think there’s a lot to learn about gender self-ID from the way in which it’s been dealt with here Scotland, which is why we’ve got a different proposition in our manifesto.”

John Swinney at the head of the Edinburgh Pride march in 2024 holding a banner which says
The First Minister marched in Edinburgh Pride on Saturday (Jane Barlow/PA)

The First Minister was speaking after joining thousands of people in the annual Edinburgh Pride march.

Mr Swinney led the march through the city centre holding a banner which said End Conversion Practices.

A Scottish Government consultation on the issue closed earlier this year, but final plans have yet to be put before the Scottish Parliament.

Labour said in its manifesto it would bring forward a “full trans-inclusive ban” on conversion therapies.

The inclusion of transgender people in the plans has been one of the more controversial points, along with the potential issue of religious leaders offering pastoral support.

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