Liz Truss became UK prime minister on Tuesday, September 6. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Images via Getty Images and David Cheskin/PA Images via Getty Images.
New UK Prime Minister Liz Truss is trying to block Scotland’s plans to allow trans people to self-identify as male or female, VICE World News can reveal.Two government whistleblowers said Truss has asked lawyers for help to “pause or prevent” the Scottish government’s Gender Recognition Reform Bill. Many trans people, LGBTQ organisations and politicians have criticised the UK’s current gender recognition procedure as being slow, intrusive, and unfair.
While Downing Street seems to have dropped long-held plans to reform gender recognition for trans people, the Scottish Government has pushed forward and published its plans to “improve trans lives”. However, the two whistleblowers warned that Truss, who replaced Boris Johnson as prime minister on Tuesday after being elected Conservative Party leader on Monday, is attempting to shut down the plans.One whistleblower told VICE World News they are “concerned that all of Scotland’s great trans equality work will be undone when Liz Truss steps into Number Ten”. The Government Equalities Office – which leads on all UK government work relating to LGBTQ people – confirmed that Truss’ team is currently “seeking legal advice”, adding they are “working with Scottish counterparts and other stakeholders” to explore “any implications” of the bill. Do you have a story to share? We'd love to hear from you. You can contact Ben Hunte at email@example.com, or via Twitter or Instagram.Scotland’s current gender reform bill is expected to be made law by March 2023. Once approved, trans people in Scotland would be able to change the “legal sex” on their birth certificate – from 16 years old – without the need for a medical diagnosis or for years of evidence of living as their acquired gender.
At the moment, a trans person in the UK looking for legal recognition of their gender identity must be over 18. They require medical assessments and psychiatric interviews in order to “prove” their gender to a “panel of strangers” and receive a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC). GRCs are currently held by as little as 1 percent of trans people in the country. Non-binary identities are not recognised in UK law.The UK currently has some of the most restrictive gender recognition processes in Europe, as a result of the 2004 Gender Recognition Act, but in 2017 the UK government promised it would improve the process. Some “small administrative improvements” were finally made in 2020 – including moving the process online and reducing the cost of it – but they have been criticised as falling short of a significant overhaul that trans people were promised. In Scotland, however, progressive plans continued to be developed, and the country’s gender recognition reform ambitions were published in March 2022, with aims to change the law “within a year”. Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon previously said that any concerns surrounding the bill were “not valid”, and four out of five of the main political parties in Scotland have backed the reforms.
The two UK government whistleblowers – who spoke to VICE World News on condition of anonymity because they were afraid of losing their jobs – provided evidence that Truss was seeking legal advice to stop the bill in Scotland.VICE World News has attempted to access the legal documents through a Freedom of Information Act request. One whistleblower told me: “She has asked for legal teams to look into how to ‘pause or prevent’ the Scotland Gender Recognition Act Bill, as a priority. I would not be surprised if Truss successfully stops it.” Another whistleblower said: “Truss is worried that trans people from England, Wales and Northern Ireland will be able to travel to Scotland to get legal gender recognition, then head back to where they actually live. She is furious about what Scotland pushing ahead with this plan could do to women’s rights in the rest of the UK, but she is concerned for Scotland too.” Presented with the whistleblowers’ testimony that Truss has been seeking legal advice to “pause or prevent” Scotland’s GRA, a Government Equality Hub spokesperson said: "The government is working with Scottish counterparts and other stakeholders to explore the considerations of the Bill and any implications for England and Wales. Part of this involves seeking legal advice on the potential impacts of the Scottish Bill on the rights of residents of the rest of the United Kingdom. We will continue to closely monitor the progress of the Bill, analysing its implications where necessary."
John Nicolson, the Scottish National Party’s shadow culture secretary and deputy chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global LGBT+ Rights, said: “The Scottish Government will pass legislation to reform the Gender Recognition Act. It enjoys wide-spread support across parties and the support of the vast majority of women's groups across the country.”He added: “Liz Truss should focus on cleaning up the mess that her chaotic government has created at Westminster, rather than trying to interfere with progressive Scottish Government business over which she has no remit.”Colin Macfarlane, director of Stonewall Scotland, told VICE World News: “The Scottish Government is following international best practice with their proposed legislation for a de-medicalised approach to legal gender recognition for trans people, joining more than 30 countries across the world – including our neighbours in Ireland.”He added: “The SNP, Greens, Scottish Labour and Liberal Democrats all made manifesto commitments for reform to legal gender rules. The Bill is already proceeding through the Scottish Parliament where it will be subject to democratic scrutiny. The Scottish Parliament has both the legal competence and the democratic mandate to legislate on these proposals and polls show the majority of Scottish people support this reform.’’Trans rights were discussed repeatedly throughout the Conservative Party leadership race this summer, where Truss defeated former chancellor Rishi Sunak. In a TalkTV leadership hustings on the 25th of August, Truss denied that trans women are women.
Earlier this year, Tory MP Suella Braverman, who was then attorney general for England and Wales, hinted at interfering with Scotland’s plans, and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) – which is supposed to uphold equality laws across the UK – has previously urged the Government to stop the reforms. VICE World News has extensively reported on the EHRC appearing to support the removal of trans rights. In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph, Braverman said: “I think there are incredibly serious implications of what the Scottish government is proposing, and I will be considering whether there are constitutional issues.“Effectively the Scottish parliament, if this is enacted, will be approving a form of self-identification. And we will have a two-tier system within the United Kingdom.“I can’t foresee how that is workable, whereby north of the border, you may be able to self-identify but a bit south of the border that might not be recognised. What effects does that have on our public institutions, our state? It is incredibly worrying and causes a huge amount of uncertainty.”Braverman described young people coming out as trans as a “social contagion”, and added, without evidence, that teachers fear a “takeover” of trans rights in schools.On Tuesday Braverman was promoted to Home Secretary by Truss.