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Tory minister who blocked Scotland’s gender bill won’t meet Scottish politicians to explain himself

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Alister Jack

Tory Scotland secretary Alister Jack has turned down an invitation to meet the Scottish equalities committee to discuss the future of the country’s gender reform bill.

On Tuesday (17 January), Jack confirmed in the House of Commons that he would block the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) bill from getting royal assent, over concerns it would impact the Equality Act 2010, “same-sex spaces” and “equal pay” legislation. 

No details were given of how it might impact these areas, with many experts disagreeing on all points.

The Scottish government wrote to Jack on the same day, inviting him to appear before its equalities committee.

In his response, published Friday (20 January), he said he would not attend due to “existing commitments”. 

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He added that “with all due respect to the committee” he felt it would “not be appropriate” for him to attend given first minister Nicola Sturgeon’s view that the matter will “inevitably end up in court”. 

His letter came after he told journalists during a levelling-up event at Kilmarnock’s Palace Theatre that he is “not the equalities minister, and will not be speaking with the equalities committee”. 

He added: “My job is constitutional”. 

The committee subsequently sent a letter to Tory women and equalities minister Kemi Badenoch, inviting her to attend the meeting on Tuesday to discuss the bill. 

“The committee had previously extended this invitation to the Secretary of State for Scotland, but he has said publicly that you are the responsible minister,” the letter read.

Scotland’s gender bill, which was passed 86-39 by Scottish parliament in December, would have made obtaining a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) easier for trans people.

A GRC allows trans people to be identified in their affirmed gender on birth, marriage, civil partnership and death certificates. The reforms would have removed the requirement of obtaining a medical diagnosis in order to get a GRC, and would have lowered the age limit for them to 16.

The government used Section 35 of the Scotland Act 1998 to veto the bill in an unprecedented move.

Further to this, following Jack’s comments in Kilmarnock that he role is a “constitutional” one, the Constitution, Europe, External Affairs and Culture Committee have now invited him to discuss the gender reform bill and the government’s use of Section 35. 

In regards to Jack not attending the committee meeting, a UK government spokesperson told PinkNews: “In light of the First Minister’s view that this matter will ‘inevitably end up in court’, it would not be appropriate for Mr Jack to attend at this time.”

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