Labour leader Anas Sarwar, Tory Tess White and Labour MSPs Michael Marra and Pauline McNeill.
By Bill Heaney
Scottish Conservative MSP Tess White has today written to Anas Sarwar to urge him to give Labour MSPs a free vote at stage three of the SNP’s Gender Recognition Reform Bill.
According to the Daily Record, Labour’s Women’s Committee found that a plurality of Labour women members is opposed to the controversial bill – however Labour MSPs were whipped to support the reforms at stage one.
As a result, more of the SNP’s own MSPs rebelled against the legislation than Labour MSPs – all but one of whom voted for the bill last month.
Tess White highlighted to Anas Sarwar, who was voted Politician of the Year by Herald readers last week, that several Labour MSPs and members have publicly expressed scepticism over the proposals in the past, and that Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary Michael Marra signed up to the Labour Women’s Declaration – an organisation which strongly opposes the legislation.
The Scottish Conservative shadow minister for women’s health is now calling on the Scottish Labour leader to follow the Scottish Conservatives’ lead and allow his MSPs the freedom to express their sincerely-held concerns over these contentious reforms.
Tess White said: “Women, girls and campaigners across Scotland have been dismayed to see Labour fall meekly in behind the SNP over these misguided reforms.
“Concerns over this bill cut across party divisions and Labour members have expressed their doubts in the past – so it has been deeply disappointing to see Anas Sarwar try to silence the valid opposition of MSPs within his own ranks.
“We all agree on the need to improve trans rights, but it’s clear that we must also protect vulnerable young people and the hard-won rights of women and girls.
“Sadly, Labour seem determined to ignore the legitimate fears of the EHRC, the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls, and even members of their own party.
“Labour’s party whips are playing right into Nicola Sturgeon’s hands – and in the process, letting down women, girls and vulnerable people all across the country.
“I urge Anas Sarwar to follow the Scottish Conservatives’ lead and allow his MSPs a free vote to express their legitimate opposition. If he won’t, then I hope Labour MSPs will choose to vote with their consciences, and stand up for women and girls rather than toe the party line.”
The Conservatives say the following supports their argument:
Scottish Labour members have warned of ‘grave’ concerns over the party’s stance on the SNP’s Gender Recognition Reform Bill.A report by Scottish Labour’s Women’s Committee found that a plurality of respondents did not support the party’s stance on the Gender Recognition Reform Bill. A key criticism of the Bill was also removed from the party’s final version of the policy report. A party insider admitted ‘The Holyrood group is all over the place with competing amendments.’ (Daily record, 21 November 2022, link).
Michael Marra signed a petition from the Labour Women’s Declaration.His name is a founding signature on their petition which promises ‘Women have the right to maintain their sex-based protections, as set out in the Equality Act 2010. These include female-only spaces such as changing rooms, hospital wards, sanitary and sleeping accommodation, refuges, hostels and prisons.’ It is not clear when the petition was launched. (iPetitions, Accessed 1 June 2022, link).
Pauline McNeill co-sponsored a meeting with de-transitioners in the Scottish Parliament. Sinead Watson, a 31-year-old woman from Glasgow, and Ritchie Herron, a 35-year-old man from Newcastle, shared their views on the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill. The event was hosted by Scottish Labour MSP Pauline McNeill along with SNP MSP Ruth Maguire. The de-transitioners said they had concerns about the Bill, in particular lowering the age of application from 18 to 16 (The Herald, 22 November 2022, link).
Top picture: Women’s athletics where trans rights in a major issue.