Division in the Scottish Conservatives as MSPs publicly disagree over GRR bill

Craig Hoy speaking at the PinkNews Edinburgh reception.

Conservative MSP Craig Hoy was repeatedly heckled during a panel discussion about his decision to vote against the Gender Recognition Reform (GRR) bill with a “very heavy heart” while his party colleague was applauded for his trans-inclusive stance.

Hoy was speaking at the PinkNews Edinburgh Parliamentary Reception on Wednesday (14 June) as a last-minute replacement for Tory leader Douglas Ross who pulled out earlier in the week due to a diary clash.

Highlighting divisions within the Conservatives, the event was launched and sponsored by Jamie Greene, one of the few Tory MSPs to vote in favour of gender recognition reform in Scotland.

While Hoy was repeatedly heckled and interrupted by audience members for voting against gender recognition reform, Greene won applause for speaking about his continued commitment to reforming the GRA and to banning conversion therapy in all its forms.

“I can take the snubs in the bar. I can take the booing on top of the Pride bus. I can do that because that’s my job,” Greene said.

“But here’s what is unfair. What is unfair is the young gay lad who’s afraid to come out, a couple who are beaten up after a night out in the town, the young trans person who reads the headlines where they use the word ‘trans’ in the same sentence as the words ‘monster’ or ‘pervert’.”

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The panelists at the PinkNews Edinburgh reception 2023.
The panelists at the PinkNews Edinburgh reception 2023. (Ben Fitzhugh)

While Greene was applauded for his words, his party colleague Hoy was repeatedly heckled by members of the audience when he said he supports trans rights but opposed gender recognition reforms.

Speaking at the PinkNews reception, Hoy praised the Tories for equalising the age of consent in the 1990s and called for similar progress for the trans community.

When interrupted by a member of the audience who asked why he voted against the bill, Hoy said he was “just going to come to that point”, adding that there was no need for audience “intervention”.

Hoy said: “I was also mindful that there are other voices and other issues and that actually there were couple of technical issues in there.”

After being interrupted again by an audience member, Hoy said: “I think we have a moderator”.

Hoy went on to claim that he voted against the GRR bill with a “very heavy heart”, acknowledging that he and Jamie Greene ultimately diverged in their views.

When pressed on why he voted against the bill, Hoy expressed concern about 16 and 17 year olds being allowed to legally transition and questioned whether trans women should be allowed in women’s prisons.

He also said he had been contacted by members of the LGBTQ+ community who urged him to stand up for “women’s rights and women’s safety and safe spaces”.

Speaking to PinkNews after the panel discussion, Hoy played down the heckling he faced from audience members.

“I think for these things lively debate is really important. None of us get it right all of the time, but all of us want to get to the same place, all of us have got the same mission,” he said.

During an exclusive interview with PinkNews, Hoy said he had concerns about “safeguarding” and argued that a trans person should have to live in their gender for a specific period of time before being granted a gender recognition certificate.

“Some people say more than six months, 12 months, two years – I don’t have an absolute answer to that,” he said.

Hoy also hit out at the SNP, saying “sensible amendments” to the bill were rejected and again spoke out against 16 and 17 year olds being allowed to transition.

Hoy’s comments were made at a parliamentary reception marked by Tory division at what was otherwise an event all about advancing LGBTQ+ rights in Scotland.

Other speakers on the panel included SNP MSP and social justice secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville, Labour MSP Pam Duncan-Glancy, Scottish Greens leader Patrick Harvie and Liberal Democrats councillor Euan Davidson.

Ellie Gomersall, moderator of the panel discussion at the PinkNews Edinburgh parliamentary reception.
Ellie Gomersall, moderator of the panel discussion at the PinkNews Edinburgh parliamentary reception. (Ben Fitzhugh)

All spoke out in support of trans rights and gender recognition reform, with Hoy emerging as the only panellist to oppose legislative advances for LGBTQ+ people.

The event comes after a turbulent few months for Scotland’s LGBTQ+ community. In December, the Scottish government passed its long-discussed Gender Recognition Reform (GRR) bill, but just weeks later, the legislation was blocked by Westminster under an unprecedented Section 35 order.

Following Nicola Sturgeon’s resignation as first minister and leader of the SNP, a bitter leadership race ensued which quickly descended into debate about trans rights and same-sex marriage.

New party leader and first minister Humza Yousaf has reaffirmed the party’s commitment to reforming Scotland’s gender recognition laws.

In April, the Scottish government took legal action against the UK government over the Section 35 order, which some had warned could trigger a “constitutional crisis” in the UK.