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Monday, January 30, 2023

Alister Jack: Trans people not part of thinking in Section 35 decision

ALISTER Jack has said the trans community was “not part of my thinking at all” when it came to his decision to block gender reform in Scotland.

Instead, the Scottish Secretary insisted his unprecedented use of Section 35 of the Scotland Act was “entirely” for legal reasons.

Speaking from Kilmarnock during a visit to the Scottish town on Thursday, Jack was quizzed on his decision to block the Gender Recognition Reform Bill, which passed with support from all five parties in the Scottish Parliament.

Asked if he would revoke his Section 35 order, he said: “No, and this is democracy.

READ MORE: What is Section 35 order? The UK ‘nuclear option’ to block gender recognition law

“The democratic act is the Scotland Act 1998. It was brought forward by a Labour Government, it created the Scottish Parliament, it was voted for by the SNP at the time, supported by the SNP at the time.”

He went on: “The legal advice I have says that citizens right across the United Kingdom including Scotland are impacted – there’s adverse effects – by this legislation so that is why I stopped it going to royal assent.”

He said that the ball was in the Scottish Government’s court, and the legal review of the bill was something which the UK Government “do with every bill”.

READ MORE: ‘As if written by someone on work experience’: Reaction to UK’s Section 35 justification

But challenged on the fact that the Section 35 order was in fact not a run of the mill occurrence, Jack said: “It’s not normal at all. This is the first time [a Section 35 order has been used]. I didn’t take this decision at all lightly.

“I’m sorry that it involves gender and the trans community and they’re not part of my thinking at all. This is entirely a legal opinion, the constitutional situation, and a piece of legislation that has adverse impacts on other legislation in the UK.”

Asked if the fact that trans people had not been a “part of his thinking” when he decided to block gender reform was a startling admission, Jack said: “You’re putting words into my mouth.”

Told that he was in fact being quoted directly, he went on: “I said in taking the decision I have every sympathy for the trans community and people who want to change gender. That is not the issue here. When I was looking at the legal advice, the legal advice was on the bill.

“I wasn’t getting into what the substance of the bill was, I was getting into the legalities of the bill. This is a legal decision I’ve taken, that’s the point I was making.”

Asked if he knew any trans people who would be impacted by his Section 35 order, Jack said: “I do know some trans people … but I’m not going to bring personal people into this decision or discussion, that would be terribly unfair of me.”

The Scottish Government has repeatedly stressed changes in the gender recognition reform bill – which would make it easier for trans people to obtain a gender recognition certificate – would not interfere with the UK Equalities Act, despite concerns from opponents.

On Thursday, supporters of the legislation staged a protest against Jack’s use of Section 35 outside the Scotland Office in Edinburgh, and Scottish Social Justice Secretary Shona Robison urged him to revoke the order.

Jack has been invited to appear before Holyrood‘s Constitution Committee next week to give evidence on the decision.



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