Court rules that Scottish Government acted lawfully in including trans women in an equal opportunities measure to improve women’s representation on public boards
By Democrat reporter
Lady Wise, pictured right, held in the Outer House of the Court of Session today that the Scottish Government acted within its lawful powers by including all transgender women who are living as women, including those without a Gender Recognition Certificate, within an equal opportunities measure which aims to ensure that 50% of non-executive public board members are women.
Her opinion finds that the Scottish Government acted lawfully under a specific power to make equal opportunities measures to increase representation on Scottish public boards, and for this reason, the Scottish Government has not breached the Equality Act 2010.
She also considers and dismisses other challenges to the legislation, making it clear that both EU law on sex discrimination and the International Convention for the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) apply to, and are inclusive of all women, including transgender women.
The Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) Act 2018 passed over two years ago, ensuring greater involvement of women in public life in Scotland. The Act is working well, but a group called ‘For Women Scotland’ (FWS) had applied for a Judicial Review to have the Act scrapped, because they objected to the fact it allows trans women to be included in the aim that 50% of public board members should be women. Trans women make up an estimated 0.2% of the Scottish population.
The case was heard by the Court of Session on 7th and 8th January 2021.
Scottish Trans were granted permission to intervene in the case. Scottish Trans provided the Court with a perspective of how progressive a step the express inclusion of transgender women was, given their previous invisibility within public life.
The court commented favourably in relation to Scottish Trans’ “detailed and helpful written intervention that addressed some of the equal opportunities arguments from the perspective of transgender people.”
Vic Valentine, Scottish Trans manager said: “We are delighted that Lady Wise has held that the Scottish Government were able to include trans women in this legislation aimed at increasing women’s representation on Scottish Public Boards.
“This is an important decision: clearly stating that this equal opportunities measure for women that explicitly includes trans women in line with how they live their lives did not breach the law.
“We know that trans women continue to have almost no visibility in public life: whether that is in boardrooms, Council Chambers or Parliaments. We hope that any trans woman who has felt unsure about applying for a position on a Scottish Public board due to this Judicial Review will be reassured by this decision.
“We believe women should have their voices heard and be represented on Public Boards, and trans women should not be singled out to be excluded. We are pleased that this outcome means that all women, including transgender women, will continue to have that representation guaranteed.”
Scottish Trans were represented pro bono by the Scottish Just Law Centre, part of the human rights legal charity JustRight Scotland; Dorothy Bain QC., above left, was instructed as advocate.
Jen Ang, Director at JustRight Scotland, said: “We are pleased to have been able to support Scottish Trans to intervene in this case and that the written intervention was regarded as having provided helpful evidence to the court.
“The Scottish Just Law Centre was founded in order to ensure that third sector organisations like Scottish Trans have a fair opportunity to participate in legal processes where the outcome of a court decision directly affects them and those they support.
“We hope this is the first of many opportunities we have to support individuals and organisations to engage in important cases raising issues of discrimination and inequality.’