Sunak’s Scottish Gender Reform Bill veto is an attack on human rights and democracy

The UK Government’s decision to block the Scottish Gender Recognition Reform bill is a disgraceful attack on human rights and democracy.

The Tories already have a multitude of crises of their own making to deal with. The cost of living, the NHS at breaking point, crumbling public services and the existential threat of the climate emergency all demand urgent action.

Instead of allowing a functioning democracy to act independently, they have inflamed a toxic culture war to distract from their many failings and spread more hatred and division. 

Trans people continue to face unrelenting attacks from our right-wing media and their lives are used as a political football.

These actions have consequences. 4,355 hate crimes towards trans people have been recorded by police in the last 12 months, up 56% from the previous year.

After years of empty promises, conversion therapy is yet to be banned. The average waiting time for young trans people to have their first appointment in a gender identity clinic (GIC) is nearly three years, and many adults face waits of four years or more.

The impact of these delays can be traumatising. Refusing or delaying transition can lead to multiple life-shortening outcomes including depression, substance abuse and self-harm.

It’s no wonder then that the UK has dropped down the annual ranking of LGBTQ+ rights across Europe for the third year running to 14th, having been 1st as recently as 2015.

This piece of legislation would simply make the process for legally recognising a trans man or trans woman’s gender simpler and fairer, in alignment with leading international practice endorsed by the United Nations and adopted by 30 other countries.

Anyone thinking the Tories care about women’s rights or the interests of LGBTQ+ people couldn’t be more wrong. This is just a game to them, and it’s trans people who will suffer the consequences.

This is a dark day not only for human rights but also for democracy and devolution.

Scotland has already had to leave the EU against its will and been blocked from holding an independence referendum despite a clear mandate. Now we are witnessing a direct attack on the powers of the Scottish Parliament.

The decision to use a Section 35 Order of the Scotland Act is unprecedented — the only time that it has been used since the Scottish Parliament was created in 1998. This undermining of the devolution settlement will understandably increase the Scottish people’s support for independence.

This bill was passed by the Scottish Parliament with overwhelming, cross-party support, by 86 votes to 39. It followed years of consultation and lengthy debates, the most extensive scrutiny in the Scottish Parliament’s history.

Rishi Sunak’s concerns that this bill impacted the operation of the Equality Act have already been proven to be entirely false by Scottish politicians from across the parties.

This power grab by Westminster could take us down a slippery slope where the UK Government looks to intervene in other decisions made in Holyrood that they disagree with.  

Breakthrough will therefore fully support a legal challenge if this is taken to the courts and we hope that this process concludes quickly. In the meantime, the veto must be fought energetically on the streets.

At this historic moment, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has chosen to sit on the fence. We need a real opposition to the Tory agenda: that means a principled commitment to trans rights and democracy, not more triangulation and focus groups.

Trans people should be able to live out their lives in peace, with dignity and respect. To be able to self-ID, to have quicker access to healthcare and support, and not have to fight for their right to exist.

We will always stand in solidarity with our trans siblings in their continued fight for equality.