SNP LEADERSHIP: ‘Rattled’ Humza Yousaf heckled  over gender reforms

By Lucy Ashton

The SNP leadership candidate was criticised after he admitted he did not regret voting down amendments that would have prevented male rapists being situated in women prisons

Humza Yousaf was heckled during the Times Radio debate

Humza Yousaf was said to be as “rattled” by some critics after he was heckled and shouted down audience members during a row about gender reforms.

The SNP leadership contender was asked whether he regretted not voting through amendments to the controversial Gender Reform Recognition legislation which, the interviewer said had the potential to “put rapists in women’s prisons?”

He said he did not, but admitted that the Isla Bryson case was a “mistake.” This was the scandal which saw a convicted trans double rapist be sent to a female prison in Cornton Vale.

A massive public outcry persuaded the Scottish Prison Service to change their minds and he was instead moved to the male prison estate.

Critics of the gender reforms claimed that they were the reason for this to happen in the first place, but Mr Yousaf claimed it had “nothing to do” with the bill.

That comment was badly received by the crowd at the Times Radio debate as they immediately booed, with some heckling him.

And this caused the health secretary to react by shouting down the hecklers:  “You can shout all you want.”

He said: “There was a substantial discussion on that amendment, what we have done is updated the SPS policy which says that of course, a man with a history of violence shouldn’t be in a female prison.

“Of course, in the Isla Bryson case, that was a mistake, and it had nothing to do with the GRR bill, GRR is not enforced, so for anybody to shout and suggest that is simply not correct.

“So I agree that the policy from SPS should have been the policy it is now, the updated one, and that any man with a history of violence should not be in the female estate.”

But his reaction to the heckling was criticised by a number of social media users, who pointed out that he had acted rudely and was dismissive towards the audience.

Transgender double rapist Isla Bryson was found guilty of raping two women when she was a man
Transgender double rapist Isla Bryson was found guilty of raping two women when she was a man

Policy analyst Lucy Hunter Blackburn said: “Shockingly arrogant performance from a man who was Justice Minister while the policy allowed exactly what he now says it shouldn’t, and who is either too dense or disingenuous to understand that a policy which *anticipates* a legal change is relevant to discussing that change.”

And Tory councillor Iain Gall added: “Shouting down the public will see this chancer, if he’s elected FM, chased from office in months. He’s aggressive, condescending and dismissive, the perfect continuity candidate because that’s exactly how Sturgeon played.”

Mr Yousaf was also asked about his opinion on Harry Potter author JK Rowling’s criticism of Nicola Sturgeon where she described her as the “destroyer of women’s rights” over her support for gender reforms.

He confirmed that he backed his outgoing boss in this row as she has “advanced the rights of women” during her time in Bute House and “took exception” to any allegations she didn’t.

Mr Yousaf was then asked by the interviewer if that meant he took “exception” to Mr Rowling, which he responded by saying “indeed.”

Meanwhile, this morning, the Scottish Conservatives wrote to Humza Yousaf urging him to drop the “inflammatory and polarising language” and govern for the whole of Scotland if he becomes First Minister.

MSP Sharon Dowey expressed her dismay after the health secretary described the UK administration as “a foreign government” during a leadership debate last night, and then defended making the remark today during an interview on BBC Good Morning Scotland.

When questioned during the debate over the UK Government issuing a Section 35 order in relation to the Gender Recognition Reform Bill, he said: “If we were independent, we would not have a foreign government, for example, coming in and vetoing our legislation.”

The shadow culture minister warned that Humza Yousaf risks widening the constitutional splits in Scotland which were fuelled during Nicola Sturgeon’s reign, at a time when the country was crying out for a leader to heal divisions.

She added that Scotland has two governments and that the SNP leadership frontrunner – who has spoken of his intention to be a ‘First Activist’ as well as First Minister – had offended a large number of Scots with his “dog whistle to extreme Nationalists”. 

Sharon Dowey MSP said: “Humza Yousaf needs to drop this inflammatory and polarising language now.  To refer to the UK Government as ‘a foreign government’ is plain wrong: Scotland has two governments, and he knows this.

“By choosing to use this divisive rhetoric he is sending a dog whistle to extreme Nationalists and showing contempt to the majority of the population who support Scotland’s place in the Union.

“Scotland doesn’t need or want a ‘First Activist’, it requires a First Minister who will heal the divisions that have blighted Scotland ever since 2014.

“But rather than seek to mend the splits in Scotland that Nicola Sturgeon helped foster, Humza Yousaf seems intent on exacerbating them.

“He claimed last night that he wanted to raise the tone of political debate, yet by doubling down on this offensive comment today, he is lowering it.”

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