• No legislative changes this year
  • No reduction to 16 for trans young people
  • No reforms inclusive of non-binary people

Reform of the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) in Scotland has been delayed significantly, in an announcement made today in Holyrood.

Cabinet Secretary, Shirley-Anne Somerville, announced the Scottish Government would not bring forward legislation at this time to reform the 2004 Act, despite previously holding a consultation in which the majority backed change.

Instead, it was announced that a Draft Bill would be presented to Parliament later this year and that a second consultation would be launched to “allow valid concerns to be properly addressed.”


Only after this consultation has ended and there has been due consideration of the responses, would the Government then bring back legislation to Parliament, delaying the issue of GRA reform potentially by more than a year.

The Minister outlined a number of areas in her speech on GRA reform, which included:

  • support for removal of the 2 year waiting period before a person can apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate, but replacing this with a mandatory 3 month ‘reflection’ period followed by a further 3 month ‘living in your new gender’ period.
  • moving to a system of legal statutory declaration in order to access a gender recognition certificate, with significant penalties for any abuse of the system.
  • no lowering of the age of gender recognition for young people to 16 as had previously been campaigned for, instead committing to ‘consider further’ the reduction and impact on young people.
  • no extension of legal gender recognition to non-binary people, instead the establishment of a working group to consider “changes to procedure and practise”.

There will also be steps taken to replace the existing LGBT Youth Scotland guidance for schools, with new Government-backed guidance which will be issued to all schools by the end of the year.

The Government announced another working group, this time to consider the collection and use of data by sex and gender across departments. It’s hoped this working group will offer guidance to public bodies on how data is collected and used in a single sex context.

The SNP previously committed to reforming the GRA in their 2016 manifesto, before the Scottish Government then held a GRA public consultation between November 2017 and March 2018 (with 15,500 responses). It then published its analysis of the consultation in November 2018 and has only now announced how it wants to proceed.

Scottish Trans Alliance had mixed reactions to the announcement, welcoming the move to a statutory declaration system but threatening legal action if non-binary people are not afforded the same rights as trans men and women.

In a statement they said:

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Other LGBT groups have reacted to the statement today, with Stonewall Scotland’s Director, Colin Macfarlane, telling us:

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There’s also been disappointment and frustration on social media, with trans people and allies venting their feelings but also offering solidarity to continue the fight for equal recognition for all trans and non-binary people.

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Changes to the GRA, despite receiving majority backing in the public consultation, have been severely criticised by a number of ‘gender critical’ individuals, including politicians and feminist groups, for the risk they pose to (mainly) women’s single-sex spaces and services.

Shirley-Anne Somerville referenced this in her speech, saying:

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However the minister restated several times throughout her statement, and in subsequent responses to questions from other MSP’s, that she believes there is a way through the debate in order to bring forward legislation that protects the rights of women while making the process of gender recognition much less painful for trans people.

The issue for many trans people will be how long they can continue to survive a debate which has become so toxic in where their very existence is denied and debated on social media, where trans women are labelled as ‘women with penises’ by commentators and where young people feel they are not listened to.

With Scotland falling further behind in the latest European rainbow index, hate crime against our community rising and the inability to tackle gender recognition in a timely or effective manner, has Scotland’s reputation as a beacon for LGBT equality been tarnished for good?

For more information on gender recognition reforms, visit the Equal Recognition website.


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