We applaud the two Scottish Labour MSPs, Carol Mochan and Claire Baker, who read the room better than their colleagues when they voted against the SNP’s Gender Recognition Reform Bill on 22nd December. They are supported in this by over two thirds of Scottish Labour voters and indeed two thirds of all Scottish voters.
We also welcome the fact that UK Labour is now starting to draw a clear line between the independent actions of Scottish Labour in voting for the devolved GRR Bill and its own position in relation to its responsibilities towards defending the 2010 Equality Act. On 5th January Anneliese Dodds clearly stated on LBC that UK Labour “wouldn’t have gone about this the way the SNP have. It’s an SNP bill, it’s not a Labour bill”. And on Times Radio she said, “We did not support, for example, the reduction in age that was presented in that Bill.” However, we disagree with her suggestion in those interviews that new government guidance can deal with all the anomalies now created. Clarity in law is what is urgently needed here. UN rapporteur on Violence Against Women and Girls, Reem Alsalem, said this about guidance to the Scottish Parliament Committee: “That would be a bandage solution to the process and draft legislation as it stands… Some things must be clarified and spelled out in law”.
We call on UK Labour to acknowledge the freedom of Scottish Labour to vote as it sees fit on devolved legislation like the GRR Bill, but also to note its own responsibilities as a UK-wide party towards safeguarding the single-sex exceptions in the 2010 Equality Act, which was a key Labour achievement. It should not oppose action which the UK government may take, including use of the Scotland Act (another Labour achievement), to establish whether the GRR Bill impacts on reserved matters such as The Equality Act.
We also welcome Kemi Badenoch’s announcement on 9th January of an overdue routine review and update of the Approved Countries list. The UK government’s potential future recognition of a Scottish GRC is, however, quite separate to this issue. Fixing the approved countries list will not solve the problem of the GRR (Scotland) Bill impinging on reserved areas of UK-wide legislation.
Labour Women’s Declaration Working Group