Why women wont wheesht

Scottish democracy has been dragged through the holly-decked halls of Westminster in shackles to watch the arrival of 2023.

This current year has been an ugly one for Scottish politics which culminated in the tumultuous, combative debates over support for the Government’s damaging gender recognition bill which has been inexplicably and inextricably linked to the case for independence.

Bruised and emotionally battered, MSPs left Holyrood in a fragile state in the early hours of this morning (Wednesday) and as the day went on hundreds of angry women voters gathered to show their disapproval for what many of us see as the ultimate betrayal of hard won women’s rights buried in a harmful piece of toxic legislation called the Gender Recognition Reform Bill.

The original intention of the Bill was to accelerate the time it takes for a trans person to obtain a gender recognition certificate (GRC) while lowering the age for obtaining one from 18 to 16. Ministers also wanted to ditch the need for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria and the requirement of a doctor’s report.

But the controversial law has had unintended consequences for Scotland and its people, especially women. Many of us believe the consequences will threaten women’s sex-based rights and be exploited by violent, predatory men which has happened elsewhere in the world.

Those fears, shared by the ALBA Party, have been echoed by many leading feminists and celebrities such as respected and much loved Harry Potter author and philanthropist J K Rowling.

The warning signs were there for us all to see back in October when the draft bill attracted an unprecedented rebellion by nine SNP MSPs.

Today’s outcome was quite different and a testament to the hard work of Scottish feminists and women’s groups everywhere who simply refused to remain silent in the face of this grave injustice.

That Scotland’s First Minister dismissed their voices as not being “valid” was a devastating indictment on Nicola Sturgeon’s own feminist credentials. Her refusal to even recognise and admit to flaws in the legislation has unleashed a serious backlash in our nation which will take years to heal.

The tragic thing is the FM, encouraged by uninformed political advisers and the Scottish Green Party, was convinced she was doing good when it became crystal clear her GRR Bill could harm and endanger women and children.

This isn’t so much a Shakespearean tragedy but rather a cautionary tale about illusion and self-deception with the central theme of the Emperor’s new clothes as told by Hans Christian Andersen.

Just as The Emperor and his courtiers pretend he is wearing clothes because they do not wish to appear foolish so did those supporting the GRR Bill and the SNP which sacrificed more important matters to dedicate so much political capital to its gender reforms.

There is no value in simply planning to do good if you don't actually do it and this Bill will harm us all.

Just recently Reema Alsalem, the UN special rapporteur on violence against women and girls wrote to the FM to warn her this legislation would be open to abuse by male sex offenders, endangering women and girls. The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has also raised similar concerns.

In Alba, having spoken to many of our female members, there are very serious concerns about the bill for the welfare of children aged 16 and 17 who say they want to change their legal sex.

Discredited charities have succeeded in getting the NHS to put aside evidence and adopt an affirmative approach to children with gender dysphoria, arguing that it is always an indicator of a fixed trans identity.

This has led the NHS putting growing numbers of children and young people on the path to irreversible medical treatment that can make them infertile and is likely to have other significant physical and cognitive risks.

However, I have read the review by senior paediatrician Hilary Cass in which she reveals many cases of gender dysphoria in children are transient and can be associated with discomfort about puberty, coming to grips with same-sex attraction, autism and childhood trauma. She has highlighted that social transition – changing a child’s pronouns and name – is not a neutral intervention.

Cass’s findings as a senior paediatrician have provoked a dramatic shift in the way NHS England plans to care for children with gender dysphoria – new draft service specifications emphasise the risks of inappropriate social transition and that it should only be done on a case-by-case basis - more importantly - with medical supervision.

We in Alba are totally mystified as to why the Scottish government has chosen to ignore the Cass Review in favour of listening to the views of those with no clinical input whatsoever.

The concerns of a UN special rapporteur have been ignored, young people who received appalling care from NHS Scotland have been ignored and the voices of those who seriously regret their transition have been ignored.

Attempts to amend the bill to make clear that a GRC does not change someone’s sex for the purposes of the Equality Act will fail when you consider all that needs to be done is to update the Equality Act to clarify its sex-based protections for women apply only to those who are biologically female.

Those of us who are concerned with independence believe the last few months could have been better spent. Little wonder then that Alba Women won’t wheesht!

Written by Alba Party’s National Women’s Convener Dr Yvonne Ridley

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