By Bill Heaney
Labour MSP Jenny Marra has asked First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to clear up the Scottish government’s position on whether puberty-blocking drugs should continue to be administered to children.
Ms Sturgeon shied away from giving a clear answer, however, when she said: “Decisions on treatment pathways are best made by clinicians in consultation with patients, and following all the appropriate guidelines. It is not the role of the Scottish Government to intervene in such decisions.
“Young people can be considered for puberty blockers only after thorough psychological and endocrine assessment, as per the clinical guidelines, and anyone who commences them continues to receive regular psychological review and support appointments.”
Jenny Marra MSP – “I support every child having the right to live their best life.”
Ms Marra persisted: “It is interesting that the First Minister does not think that the democratic process and the courts can overrule medical opinion, because that is exactly what happened in the High Court in England last week.”
She added: “Let me say that I support every child having the right to live their best life, and the medical support to enable them to do so.
“However, last week’s judgment in the English High Court was specifically about children’s capacity to consent.
“Law and society do not deem children to have capacity to consent to sex or marriage.
“Last week, the High Court said that neither do they have the capacity to consent to life-altering, fertility-changing drugs until they are aged 16.
“However, we know that, in the Sandyford clinic in Glasgow, NHS Scotland continues to give such drugs to children as young as 11.”
Ms Marra, who is a graduate in both Scottish and English Law, proceeded: “Given her legal background, can the First Minister tell me whether she agrees that children lack the legal capacity to give informed consent to receiving such drugs?
“If she does, will she use her power to instruct the national health service in Scotland to stop giving them to our children?”
The First Minister, who is a graduate in Scots Law, replied: “It would not be appropriate for me to comment on court actions or decisions that have occurred in England.
“As a matter of fact—it is not a matter of opinion—last week’s ruling from the High Court has no formal status in Scotland.”
She failed to mention that such a decision taken in another jurisdiction could be considered “persuasive” in a Scottish Court of Law.
Ms Sturgeon added: “In the case of children and adolescents in Scotland, the young people’s service at Sandyford works within the existing guidelines on the treatment of young people to which I referred in my initial answer.
“Decisions on types of treatment are for clinicians to make. Jenny Marra referred to my legal background. I have no clinical or medical background, and I think it important that such matters are reserved to clinicians.
“If the Parliament wants to consider them in a policy sense, it is of course always open to it to do so.”
This issue caused controversy in the SNP in West Dunbartonshire recently when Cllr Caroline McAllister was dropped from the list of prospective candidates to take on Jackie Baillie MSP, the sitting Labour member for Dumbarton.”
Toni Giugliano the SNP’s prospective candidate for Dumbarton.
It also caused a national outcry when Harry Potter author JK Rowling became entangled in a similar controversy in Edinburgh.
Meanwhile, Scottish Trans (ST), part of the LGBTI human rights charity Equality Network supported by Toni Giugliano the SNP’s prospective candidate to stand for election in Dumbarton – the constituency covers Dumbarton, Vale of Leven, Helensburgh and Lomond – have been given permission to intervene in a legal case, which is seeking to throw out legislation passed two years ago, ensuring greater involvement of women in public life in Scotland.
The Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) Act 2018, guarantees women 50% of places on public boards, and was welcomed by all parties as step towards equality.
A group called ‘For Women Scotland’ (FWS) wants the Act scrapped, because they object to the fact it allows trans women to be included in that 50%. Trans women make up an estimated 0.2% of the Scottish population.
According to FWS’ crowd funding page, it has raised over £60,000 to bring the challenge against Holyrood in Scotland’s supreme civil court. Scottish Trans is also paying for all fees related to the case out of fundraising donations.
The case is due to be heard by the Court of Session on 7 January next year.
Senior judges have now granted Scottish Trans permission to act as third-party ‘interveners’, which means they can submit evidence to the court about why they believe changing the legislation would be an unnecessary setback to trans equality and inclusion.
ST believes FWS’ actions are damaging to the interests of all women, which they say is why they applied for permission to intervene in the case.
A spokesperson told The Democrat: “We believe the law that FWS seeks to overturn is fair, inclusive, and working well, and we support the Scottish government’s attempts to increase diversity on public boards. Trans women are virtually invisible in our public life, and we are against putting greater obstacles in their way.”
Meanwhile, the following letter has been circulated via social media to women in the SNP by Alistair Davidson, who wrote: “I have been asked by a number of women in the SNP to share this.“We, as women SNP activists, condemn the decision by the SNP to whip MSPs to vote in favour of the amendment to the Forensic Medical Services Bill (10-12-2020).
“In law, the words “gender” and “sex” do not have distinct meanings, so this amendment changed nothing pertaining to the execution of this legislation. Instead, the purpose of this amendment was to act as a “dogwhistle” – a covert signal – to anti-trans campaigners who frequently use the term ‘sex-based’ rights to refer to denying trans women the same legal protections as cis women.
“We also condemn the abuse that Rape Crisis Scotland has faced for opposing this amendment. The Forensic Medical Services Bill is a vital piece of legislation that will help sexual abuse survivors. The passage of this Bill should rightly be celebrated, and it is shocking that such an important issue has been overshadowed by transphobic rhetoric. Rather than have a chance to celebrate the culmination of their hard work in the passage of the Bill, Rape Crisis Scotland have had to leave social media due to the abuse they have suffered from those who supported the amendment. An attack on Rape Crisis Scotland is an attack on all of us as women.
“The actions of the MSP group lacked integrity and pandered to a small group within the SNP and independence movement that is hostile to trans rights. In doing so, they not only encourage further attacks on a marginalised group, but also are driving the next generation of activists out of the Party and out of the movement.
“The SNP is the party of independence and also the party of government – as the party of government, we must be a living example here and now of the ideals that we claim to hold for an independent Scotland. We activists believe in the values of fairness, equality and social justice that the SNP claims for its own.
“In condemning the party’s actions, we call on the leadership to live up to these ideals and embody our vision of an independent future.”