John Nicolson MP warns Scotland faces ‘explosion of imported transphobia from US’

SNP MP John Nicolson

John Nicolson MP has warned that it is a “grim time” for trans people in Scotland due to an “insidious culture war” imported from the US.

Speaking at an ‘In Conversation’ event with journalist Graham Spiers at Edinburgh’s world-renowned Fringe festival on Saturday (12 August), Nicolson added that there has been an “explosion of transphobia in Scotland”.

The Scottish National Party (SNP) MP, who used to work as a journalist and was the first BBC network television presenter to come out as gay, said that the Scottish government’s Gender Recognition Reform Bill had been “mischaracterised to a grotesque degree” as he clapped back at claims that men would pretend to be trans to gain access to women’s only spaces.

Scotland’s Gender Recognition Reform Bill, which was passed by Holyrood in December 2022 before being blocked by Westminster, would make it easier for trans people to obtain legal recognition for their gender. 

The Ochil and South Perthshire MP addressed his Westminster colleague Joanna Cherry, who claimed at her own Fringe event with Spiers on Thursday (10 August) there is “intolerance” within the SNP towards people who oppose the bill. Cherry’s Fringe appearance has been the subject of controversy, and she has spoken out about being “silenced and cancelled” over her ‘gender critical’ views.

At The Stand’s New Town Theatre, Cherry said she had been “harangued” by party colleagues about her involvement with the LGB Alliance, Sky News reported.

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Nicolson, however, quipped that the SNP group at Westminster was “very LGBT” or “in Joanna’s case LGB without the T”.

Backlash as Joanna Cherry made deputy chair of human rights group
SNP MP Joanna Cherry. (Getty/Ken Jack)

He added that opponents to the Gender Recognition Reform Bill, which was passed with a “huge majority”, had “imported an insidious culture war from the United States”. 

‘Can you imagine what it is like to be a young trans person trying to find your way at the moment?’

The Bill has repeatedly been backed by feminist and LGBT+ organisations, as well as sexual violence prevention charities including Rape Crisis Scotland.

However, some people – including Cherry– claim that making it easier for trans people to self-identify would endanger women.

Nicolson said: “If I was a young trans kid, I would be finding this a grim time to be alive.” 

He also pointed out that while “it is horribly, horribly easy to attack women”, it is heterosexual men who attack women, not gay men or trans women.

“They are not going to go to the problem of getting themselves a gender recognition certificate, to dress up in heels and wig in order to go into a private place in order to assault women,” Nicolson explained.

“If you go through the court documents the statistics show that trans women do not assault other women, yet if you read Twitter you would think the only people who attack heterosexual women are trans women.”

Nicolson likened the prejudice that trans people face to the abuse endured by gay people when he was young. 

The MP stated: “What I dislike about a lot of this is very powerful people using a platform to attack one of the most vulnerable groups in society which is trans people.

“They deal with so much prejudice on a day-to-day basis. Can you imagine what it is like to be a young trans person trying to find your way at the moment, and for every right-wing newspaper and swathes of the internet and Twitter and Facebook saying your very existence isn’t worthwhile, just by being a trans person you’re bound to become a sexual abuser?

“It’s what gay men used to get, our identity used to be conflated with paedophilia.”

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