Rishi Sunak says he’s ‘concerned’ about impact Scotland’s gender bill on rest of UK

Rishi Sunak has said he is “concerned” about the ways in which Scotland’s gender law reforms could impact the rest of the UK.

The prime minister visited Scotland yesterday (January 12) as part of a two-day trip to jointly announce the first freeports north of the border, located in Cromarty Firth and Forth, alongside Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon. 

Sunak also met with Sturgeon yesterday to discuss issues such as the NHS, economy and Scottish independence. 

The meeting marked the first time Sunak has travelled to Scotland since beginning his premiership and the first time the two leaders have met since Scotland passed the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) bill

The bill was passed 86-39 in December 2022 and removes the need for a psychiatric diagnosis of gender dysphoria in order for people to obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC), as well as lowering the age limit from 18 to 16.

Under the new legislation, the time will be reduced that someone must have been permanently living in their acquired gender before they can apply for a GRC – from two years to three months, or six months for those aged 16 and 17 – with a three-month reflection period during which a person can change their mind.

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The process for getting a GRC remains the same in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. 

Rishi Sunak in front of Houses of Parliment
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. (Getty)

Following the passing of the new legislation, the UK government – including Tory Scottish secretary Alister Jack – was quick to suggest it could block the gender bill from gaining Royal Assent entirely via a never-before-used provision of the Scotland Act

“We share the concerns that many people have regarding certain aspects of this bill, and in particular the safety issues for women and children,” Mr Jack said in a statement to PinkNews.

“We will look closely at that, and also the ramifications for the 2010 Equality Act and other UK-wide legislation, in the coming weeks – up to and including a Section 35 order stopping the bill going for Royal Assent if necessary.”

The PM’s meeting came just days after the women and equalities minister Kemi Badenoch announced a review of the approved list of countries and territories whose process for changing gender on legal documents is recognised by the UK. 

This could include GCRs obtained in Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Equalities minister Badenoch, who also represents Saffron Walden in Essex, notified the Commons on Monday (January 9) that the government would update the list to “make sure it does not compromise the integrity of the Gender Recognition Act”.

Following his meeting with Ms Sturgeon, the prime minister spoke with the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland radio show about various issues, including the gender law reforms. 

Rishi Sunak: ‘I am concerned’

Mr Sunak told presenter Laura Maciver he is “concerned” about the impacts of the bill on the rest of the UK. 

He said: “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, but what I am concerned about is the impact of the bill across the United Kingdom and as is entirely standard the UK government will take advice on that. 

“The fact you are asking these questions demonstrates that there might be impacts that we need to be aware of and understand the impacts of them.” 

When probed about Ms Badenoch’s announcement and what this could means for Scots with Gender Recognition Certificates, the PM said it was “reasonable” for the government to examine the impacts and a new law. 

“The process here is one that is entirely standard and I really want to get that across to people. 

“I think it is reasonable that when the Scottish parliament is passing a law it is reasonable for the UK government to take advice on the impact of that law across the United Kingdom and then decide on the best course of action. 

“The government is waiting to receive final advice and then we will set out next steps in due course,” he said. 

This week, LGBTQ+ leaders and the wider community have slammed the government’s response to the the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) bill.

More than 145 leaders from LGBTQ+ across the country have penned an open letter to the prime minister calling on him to halt the government’s plans to block the bill.

While thousands of people have emailed their MPs urging them to take action over the UK government’s response.

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