Labour attack on Scottish gender reform is ‘dishonest’ and ‘shameful’, say Scots politicians

Anneliese Dodds pictured at an event. She is wearing a blue coat and is photographed outdoors.

The Labour Party has been condemned over its “shameful” abandonment of meaningful gender recognition reforms for trans people.

In a Guardian article published on Sunday (23 July), shadow women and equalities minister Anneliese Dodds announced Labour would “simplify and reform” the Gender Recognition Act (GRA), which allows trans people to amend their birth certificates, if elected to government.

Dodds said Labour would keep the requirement for a gender dysphoria diagnosis to legally change gender. This is a significant U-turn from 2020, when Labour said it was committed to “updating the GRA to introduce self-declaration for trans people”.

Introducing such a system was once Tory policy – then-prime minister Theresa May vowed to “demedicalise” the GRA in a speech at the 2017 PinkNews Awards – but this was abandoned by her successors.

Elsewhere in the article, Dodds hit out at the Scottish government for pushing ahead with its own gender recognition reforms. Their bill, which would have introduced self-identification for trans people in Scotland, was blocked by Scotland secretary Alister Jack, who argued it would interfere with existing UK-wide legislation.

Dodds said the SNP’s “cavalier” approach to gender recognition reform was “more about picking a fight with Westminster than bringing about meaningful change”. 

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She added: “The safeguards that were proposed to protect women and girls from predators who might abuse the system were simply not up to scratch. As a result, the Scottish government is still picking up the pieces, with trans rights no further forward.” 

Anneliese Dodds Labour
Labour no longer supports self-ID for trans people. (Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)

Dodds’ comments have also led to fury among Scottish politicians, including among those who spent years trying to get the Gender Recognition Reform (GRR) bill over the line.

SNP MP John Nicolson told PinkNews Dodds’ Guardian article was a “disgrace” and said Labour’s decision to drop self-identification for trans people was “shameful”.

“She managed to shoehorn the word ‘predators’ into an article about trans rights. Another dog whistle for the right-wing tabloids,” Nicolson said..

“It was a dishonest article too. ‘We will not make the same mistakes as the SNP’ on Gender Recognition Act reform, she said, conveniently failing to mention that the Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar joined colleagues cross-party to vote for the legislation which contained Labour Party amendments – and which has the support of the main women’s and children’s charities from across Scotland.

“It’s increasingly clear that Scottish voters can’t trust Labour on LGBT rights.” 

Maggie Chapman, equalities spokesperson for the Scottish Greens, told PinkNews Dodds’ article shows “a total lack of understanding about what has happened in Scotland”.

Maggie Chapman, equalities spokesperson for the Scottish Greens, pictured at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre in 2019.
Maggie Chapman, equalities spokesperson for the Scottish Greens, pictured at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre in 2019. (Ken Jack/Getty)

She said: “Far form being ‘cavalier’, Gender Recognition Reform was one of the most scrutinised bills in the history of our parliament and was supported by the overwhelming majority of MSPs, including most Labour MSPs.

“What Labour is proposing would go against the fundamental principle of self-identification.

“Trans rights are human rights. Yet, over recent years in particular, we have seen some of the most vicious and disgraceful disinformation and smears used against our trans siblings. 

“This is a time for pro-equality MPs and MSPs from all parties to speak out and stand up for what is right. Instead, Labour is threatening to U-turn on basic equality legislation that is already used around the world.” 

Scottish social justice secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville was unable to comment due to an ongoing legal battle with Westminster over the GRR bill – but anger within the SNP was palpable as Dodds’ article made its way across social media.

Out for Independence, the SNP’s LGBTQ+ group, issued a stinging statement saying Dodds’ article and Labour’s new position on trans rights proves “that they are in no way a party of the left, a party of progress, or even a party that has any values of its own whatsoever”.

They said Dodds’ claim that the SNP was “picking a fight with Westminster” couldn’t be further from the truth and pointed out that there was cross-party support for self-identification six years ago when Scottish ministers started work on the GRR bill.

A person holds a trans flag in the air at a crowded protest, with four union jacks being hung across two buildings.
A person waving a trans Pride flag at a protest in London. (Getty)

They added: “For as long as we are stuck in the union, we deserve a government in Westminster that will respect trans people, care for its most vulnerable citizens, and respect devolution. As they have made clear that they will do none of these things – what is the point of Labour?”

When approached for comment, Anneliese Dodds reiterated the argument made in her Guardian article that current gender recognition laws are “intrusive and outdated”.

“This policy is about simplifying and modernising that to a new process, while upholding the Equality Act and its provision for single-sex exceptions,” Dodds said.

“We’re proud of our record of championing equal rights in government, especially the Equality Act and the protections it offers to everyone, including trans people and women.

“The Gender Recognition Act and Equality Act were crowning achievements of the last Labour government that showed the difference Labour makes.

“Despite promising reform for years the SNP have failed to deliver it, leaving trans people in limbo.”

Labour might have settled on a policy position on gender recognition reform, but within the party, frustrations are reaching a fever pitch among LGBTQ+ members and allies.

The Labour Campaign for Trans Rights told PinkNews that Dodds’ announcement is “a massive step back” for their party.

“The only reform to GRA that will benefit trans people is the full demedicalisation of the process and the total lack of comment for our healthcare is proof the party has not consulted trans people about the policies that matter to them,” a spokesperson said.

“We will continue to fight tirelessly for trans people in and out of the party, we won’t be silent about what is happening.”

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