Scottish Greens MSP resigns over his own party’s ‘alienating and confrontational’ support for trans rights

Andy Wightman wearing a blue shirt and grey blazer speaks to the press

Andy Wightman, a lawmaker, resigned from Scottish Greens Friday afternoon (17 December), describing the party’s positive stance on trans rights as “alienating and provocative”.

One of just six of the party’s members of the Scottish parliament, Wightman, wrote of a culture of “censorship” and “intolerance” around trans rights, which has proved to be a tinderbox issue in Scotland’s legislature, in a letter uploaded to Twitter.

In a resignation letter addressed to Green co-leaders Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater, the Lothian politician claimed a lack of “open and mature dialogue” in the party.

It follows the party’s opposition to an amendment to the Forensic Medical Services (Victims of Sexual Offences) Bill debated by parliament last week.

Tweaks, among others, replaced the word “gender” with “sex” regarding a victim’s rights to choose their forensic examiner – the amendment was seen by some lawmakers and activists as signalling the deep hostility felt towards trans folk, acting almost as a proxy for the Gender Recognition Act debates.

It passed with 113 votes in favour and just nine opposed and a single MSP abstained. The Scottish Greens, in line with the party’s support for trans rights, were told to oppose, Wightman said.

Wightman, a high-profile land reform campaigner, admitted that he only voted to strike down the amendment due to a threat of “complaints and disciplinary action leading to possible suspension, deselection or expulsion”.

Andy Wightman quits Scottish Greens over its ‘censorious’ stance on trans rights 

In the letter, he said: “I understand that the Scottish Green Party has a strong commitment to equalities and trans rights.

“However, some of the language, approaches and postures of the party and its spokespeople have been provocative, alienating and confrontational for many women and men.

“It has become evident to me that the sort of open-minded public engagement I would like to see take place on this topic is incompatible with a party that has become very censorious of any deviation from an agreed line.

Andy Wightman speaking in the Scottish Parliament

Andy Wightman speaking in the Scottish Parliament. (Ken Jack/Getty Images)

“Put simply, I cannot operate in this kind of environment and Thursday’s vote and the discussions that took place around it were the final confirmation of that.”

Wightman was elected in 2016 and will continue to hold the seat as an independent until the May election.

The Scottish Greens have among Holyrood’s most robust and progressive policy pledges on trans rights, with Harvie and Slater launching their leadership of the party in 2019 with a renewed drive to get more non-binary folk into politics.

While Harvie was among 700 lawmakers, councillors, actors and activists calling for the government to end the “crisis of inaction” on transphobia festering within political parties.

A Scottish Greens spokesperson said, according to Holyrood: “The Scottish Greens are focused on building a greener and fairer Scotland that tackles the climate emergency, so Andy Wightman’s decision not to be part of our movement anymore is a matter of deep disappointment.

“Land reform, empowering local democracy and community empowerment are core Green issues, and Andy’s contribution has been very important, but the Greens remain committed to carrying on this agenda without him.

“The Scottish Greens wish Andy well in whatever he decides to do next.”