Scottish legislation redeems the promises made by a previous Tory prime minister, yet both sides are now in a constitutional showdown
The provision of identity lies at the heart of a modern state. But a person’s sense of who they are is not as fixed as it once was. UK law has yet to catch up with the idea that people can identify in many ways. It’s easier, perhaps, to continue with the status quo. Often reforms fail because legitimate concerns cannot be assuaged or they do not attract the support of the public. Reactionary politicians can also successfully exploit fears about change. All these reasons, and more, lie behind the repeated failure by the Westminster government to update the 2004 Gender Recognition Act (GRA), the law that enables transgender people in Britain to have their acquired gender recognised.
The SNP leader, Nicola Sturgeon, deserves credit for to attempting to modernise the law by taking into account the concerns of a vulnerable, marginalised community through democratic debate. Scottish parties split over the process, which resulted in a bill that liberalises the rules on changing legal gender in Scotland. Holyrood has made good on Theresa May’s pledge, as Conservative prime minister in 2017, to “streamlin[e] and demedicalis[e] the process for changing gender”. While Mrs May’s parliamentary faction remains influential, it is the grassroots’ favourite rightwinger Kemi Badenoch who, as the Tory equalities minister, has a louder legislative voice.