Rishi Sunak 'will move to block Nicola Sturgeon's gender identity law'

Rishi Sunak could move to block Nicola Sturgeon’s gender identity law as soon as TODAY after warnings looser rules in Scotland will cause carnage

  • Rishi Sunak is expected to block gender identity shake-up planned in Scotland
  • PM would deploy powers under Section 35 of the Scotland Act to stop overhaul
  • Government said to have ‘clear’ advice about implications for the wider UK 

Rishi Sunak could move to block Nicola Sturgeon’s gender identity law as early as today after warnings they will cause chaos.

There is a growing expectation that the PM will deploy Westminster’s powers to prevent the controversial shake-up going ahead in Scotland. It would reduce the age for formally changing gender from 18 to 16, and remove the need for a medical diagnosis. 

The UK government is said to have received ‘clear’ legal advice that Mr Sunak can trigger Section 35 of the Scotland Act – the first time it will have happened since devolution.

Ministers must act by a deadline of Wednesday, but Downing Street is keeping its options open on exactly when an announcement will be made.

Rishi Sunak raised his concerns about the gender identity rules with Nicola Sturgeon during a private dinner in Inverness last week

The measures passed at Holyrood have been highly controversial in Scotland as well as the rest of the UK (pictured, protests in Edinburgh last week)

The Bill allows trans people to self-identify without a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria, and lowers the minimum age that Scots can legally change their gender from 18 to 16.

It also slashes the timescale for obtaining a gender recognition certificate (GRC) from two years to three months for over-18s.

But it has provoked fears that abusive males could take advantage of the new system, and has put Scotland on a constitutional collision course with Westminster.

The Scotland Act, which established a devolved Scottish government and parliament, gives Westminster four weeks to consider bills passed by Holyrood that could have an ‘adverse effect on the operation of the law’.

The Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill was passed by MSPs on December 22, meaning the deadline will arrive on Wednesday.

Westminster’s legal advice apparently suggests the new measures would ‘cut across’ UK-wide legislation on equalities.

A UK Government spokeswoman officials were closely assessing the impact the law passed in Scotland would have on the Equality Act.

‘We share the concerns that others – including the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women and Girls – have with the Bill, particularly around safety issues for women and children,’ said the spokeswoman.

‘We are looking closely at these issues, and also the ramifications for the 2010 Equality Act and other UK wide legislation.

‘Our concerns include the protection of single sex spaces, and the checks and balances included in the process of gaining a legal gender recognition certificate.

‘No final decisions have been made and we are considering our next steps.’

Mr Sunak raised his concerns with Ms Sturgeon during a private dinner in Inverness last week.

He told broadcasters afterwards: ‘Obviously this is a very sensitive area and I know there were very robust debates and exchanges on it as the bill was passing in Scotland.

‘What I’m concerned about is the impact of the bill across the United Kingdom. As is entirely standard, the UK Government would take advice on that.

‘There may be impacts across the UK that we need to be aware of and understand the impact of them.

‘That is what we are doing, and once the Government has received final advice it will set out next steps.’

A Government source said the PM remained concerned about the impact of the Bill on women’s safety and the implications for the 2010 Equality Act, which covers England, Scotland and Wales.

If Section 35 is invoked, it would be the first time since devolution – although other two other pieces of Holyrood legislation were recently successfully challenged in the Supreme Court by the UK Government for being outside the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament.

The UK Government also has to make a decision on whether it would accept gender recognition certificates obtained in Scotland for services in England.

Keir Starmer told the BBC he thought 16 was too young an age for people to decide to legally change their birth gender

Labour has also aired concerns about the legislation, with the party’s leader referencing both the reduction in age and the potential impact on equalities.

Keir Starmer told the BBC he thought 16 was too young an age for people to decide to legally change their birth gender.

But the SNP’s Westminster leader Stephen Flynn said it would be an ‘outrage’ if London did choose to intervene, saying it would amount to the UK Parliament ‘overstepping massively’.

Meanwhile, Mr Sunak is expected to ban all conversion therapy this week, opting to go further than his recent predecessor Boris Johnson.

The Daily Telegraph said ministers are set to announce that they plan to ‘implement a total ban on both forms of conversion’ and will make legal changes to enforce the position.

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