This is a shameful week for Scottish nationalism. Let us state plainly what has happened: the government in Westminster has had to intervene in Scotland to save women’s rights. Central government has had to use its legal powers to defend women’s safety and liberty from Scotland’s devolved nationalist government that seems to have diminishing regard for such things. Nicola Sturgeon’s reputation deserves never to recover from this.
This is the news that the government intends to block Scotland’s Gender Recognition Bill. This is the bill that would make it easier for people in Scotland to legally change their gender. It would also lower the age at which they can do so, from 18 to 16. There was widespread public hostility to the bill, and furious opposition from women’s rights campaigners. And yet still MSPs passed it last month, by 86 votes to 39. Clearly they know what is good for Scotland better than the Scottish public.
Now, in an unprecedented move, Westminster will prevent the enactment of this peculiar, unpopular law. For the first time, ministers will deploy Section 35 of the Scotland Act, which allows them to block laws passed by Holyrood if they threaten to undermine UK-wide laws. In this case, says Scottish secretary Alister Jack, the bill will have a ‘significant impact’ on the rights of women as laid down in equalities legislation. Streamlining the process by which people can switch gender – or at least believe they have switched gender – could devastate single-sex spaces and even the rules on equal pay for men and women, says Jack. He’s right.
This is an extraordinary state of affairs. The supposed feminist Nicola Sturgeon having to be reminded that women’s equality matters. The supposedly evil Tories having to take extreme measures to defend women’s hard-won freedom of association from the politically correct meddling of Scotland’s nationalist elites.