Sarwar and Baillie’s “deafening silence” as Labour MSPs “parrot Sturgeon” on gender legislation

Tory deputy leader Meghan Gallacher, Labour leader Anas Sarwar and deputy Jackie Baillie.

By Bill Heaney

Anas Sarwar and Jackie Baillie have been accused of a “deafening silence” in response to the UK Government issuing a Section 35 order challenging the Scottish Government’s controversial GRR Bill.

Several Labour MSPs, including former leader Richard Leonard, have sided with Nicola Sturgeon in vocally opposing the decision – taken because the legislation impacts on equalities law in the rest of the UK – yet the Scottish leader and his deputy are yet to publicly comment.

This is despite Anas Sarwar whipping his MSPs to back Nicola Sturgeon’s gender bill – which critics say will endanger the safety and rights of women and girls – last month.

On Sunday, however, UK Labour leader Keir Starmer cited his “concerns” about the bill’s impact on the UK Equality Act and its provision reducing the age at which someone can legally change gender to 16.

Scottish Conservative deputy leader Meghan Gallacher believes Scottish Labour’s top team have a duty to spell out whether they will “parrot Nicola Sturgeon’s outrage”, like their Holyrood colleagues, or whether they now share Sir Keir’s misgivings about the bill.

 Meghan Gallacher MSP said: “Since the Secretary of State announced he would be making a Section 35 order, there has been a deafening silence from Anas Sarwar and Jackie Baillie.

“While several Labour MSPs parrot Nicola Sturgeon’s outrage at the decision, we’ve not heard a peep from Scottish Labour’s top two.

“Anas Sarwar was the one who insisted on forcing Labour MSPs to back Nicola Sturgeon’s rushed and shoddy bill and ignore the legitimate concerns of women’s groups – not to mention a majority of Scots – that it endangered the safety and sex-based rights of women and girls.

“But ever since Keir Starmer spoke out against the bill, the Scottish leader and his No2 have effectively gone to ground on this issue. They have a duty to say where they stand now.

“Scottish Conservative MSPs warned when the bill was being debated that, as well as threatening women’s rights, it would impinge on equalities legislation in the rest of the UK and, therefore, was subject to a potential legal challenge.

“Alister Jack has rightly concluded that this issue is too problematic to ignore and is keen to work with Nicola Sturgeon to reach a compromise.

“Anas Sarwar must spell out whether he backs this sensible, pragmatic approach – or the outraged tone of the First Minister and several Labour MSPs.” 

The Democrat has asked Jackie Baillie to comment.

Labour MSPs Paul Sweeney, Richard Leonard and Monica Lennon – no comment.

Monica Lennon called the UK Government’s decision to block the Gender Recognition Reform Bill ‘shameful.’ Lennon tweeted: ‘This is a shameful decision by the UK government, made for cynical political reasons. A bad day for democracy, devolution and for human rights. Anyone thinking the Tories care about women’s rights or the interests of LGBTQ people is deluding themselves.’ (Twitter, 16 January 2023, link)

Richard Leonard said that the decision to block the Gender Recognition Reform Bill from the UK Government was ‘disgraceful. Leonard tweeted: ‘Disgraceful decision that should be opposed by everyone who believes in democracy, devolution, equality and LGBT+ rights. Solidarity with trans people.’ (Twitter, 16 January 2023, link).

Pam Duncan-Glancy also said that blocking the Gender Recognition Reform Bill was ‘disgraceful.’ She tweeted: ‘This is disgraceful and cynical political posturing. I and @ScottishLabour worked day and night, and brought (and won) amendments, to make this legislation work, but the reality is, after all that, we had two governments more interested in division than solutions.’ (Twitter, 16 January 2023, link).

Mercedes Villalba said that blocking the Gender Recognition Reform Bill is ‘an attack on devolution.’ She tweeted: ‘The Conservative government has announced it will block the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill from becoming law. This attack on devolution is a desperate attempt by the Tories to distract from the financial chaos they have caused. We will not be divided. #TransRightsNow.’ (Twitter, 16 January 2023, link).

Paul Sweeney tweeted that using Section 35 is a ‘cynical attack on devolution. Sweeney tweeted: ‘If the UK Government thought there was a legal basis to challenge the Gender Recognition Bill, they would have done so in the Supreme Court. Using Section 35 is a tacit admission that there is no legal basis to challenge it. The reality is it’s a cynical attack on devolution.’ (Twitter, 16 January 2023, link)


  1. This decision is one of the main reasons we need independence in Scotland. It is about democracy. Power devolved, is power retained.

    1. Independence we need absolutely but not under Nicola Sturgeon.

      She has been an absolute disaster and a blocker to independence.

      The vast majority of people are opposed to this GRC legislation and actually support the intervention of the Westminster Government.

      But that unfortunately is now where we are. And one wonders why the clamour for Sturgeon to be gone grows day by day.

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