Nicola Sturgeon has accused some opponents of Scotland’s gender recognition reform of using women’s rights as a “cloak of acceptability”.
Scotland’s first minister was careful to stress not all opponents of her government’s Gender Recognition Reform Bill hold this view.
Her government approved the bill at the end of last year – not without opposition from her own party – to make it easier for those who wish to change gender to do so, with the minimum age requirement lowered to 16 from 18.
But earlier this month, the UK government made an unprecedented intervention and blocked the bill, refusing to allow it to receive Royal Assent – the final stage of any new bill.
Ms Sturgeon has rallied against the government decision and has now said some people opposing the bill are using women’s rights as a cover for transphobia.
Some opposing the bill have raised concerns it will allow men to easily change their gender to prey on women and enter women-only safe spaces.
“I have heard people, politicians, claiming to be defenders of women’s rights who I’d never heard defend women’s rights in the past,” she told Global’s The News Agents podcast.
“In fact, I’ve heard some support policies that run counter to women’s rights.
“We have legislation looming later in this parliament on criminal justice reform to try to deal with issues of low conviction rates for rape and sexual assault, we are likely to be dealing with legislation in months to come around abortion buffer zones.
“I think it will be interesting to see how many of the so-called defenders of women’s rights in the context of the trans debate suddenly don’t think that all women’s rights are actually important.
“There are some people that I think have decided to use women’s rights as a sort of cloak of acceptability to cover up what is transphobia.
“Now, again, that’s not everybody who opposes this bill. I want to be very clear about that.
“But there are people who have opposed this bill that cloak themselves in women’s rights to make it acceptable, but just as they’re transphobic you’ll also find that they’re deeply misogynist, often homophobic, possibly some of them racist as well.”
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Westminster could abolish Scottish Parliament
The first minister also raised the prospect of the UK government abolishing the Scottish Parliament altogether after it used a Section 35 order on the bill for the first time.
A Section 35 order gives Westminster the power to block legislation approved by any devolved nation but had not before been used since it was introduced 25 years ago.
The first minister added: “I’ve had people on my own side of the independence argument over the years say ‘the Tories are capable of abolishing the Scottish Parliament or completely taking away significant powers’.
“I’ve always resisted that, that’s hyperbole, let’s not go down that road.
“Now, I still don’t think it is likely they would try to abolish the Scottish Parliament – am I 100% sure of that anymore? No.
“But short of that, I do think there is a concerted effort to undermine, de-legitimise and remove powers from this parliament.”