New Scottish leader will challenge UK over gender law veto


LONDON (AP) – New Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf said Wednesday he will follow through with his predecessor’s plan to challenge the British government over its decision to block a law that makes it easier for people in Scotland to change their gender on official documents.

“A legal challenge is now our only means of defending our Parliament’s democracy from the Westminster veto,” Yousaf said. “If unchallenged, it sends a signal that the U.K. Government can veto any legislation they disagree with, at a whim.”

Former First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s vow to defend the legislation was left in question after her abrupt resignation created a bitter battle last month to replace her as leader of the Scottish National Party. Yousaf, a close Sturgeon ally, was pitted against two rivals who opposed the gender bill.

Yousaf did not commit to challenging the veto in court when asked Tuesday, saying he was considering legal advice.

Passage of the bill in December was hailed by transgender rights activists but vetoed by the British government, which argued it could undermine U.K.-wide equality legislation that guarantees women and girls access to single-sex spaces such as changing rooms and shelters.

The bill would allow people aged 16 or older in Scotland to change the gender designation on identity documents by self-declaration, removing the need for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria. It would also speed up legal recognition of the change from two years to three months for adults and to six months for people aged 16 and 17.

In the rest of the United Kingdom, a medical diagnosis is needed before individuals can transition for legal purposes.

Scotland is part of the U.K. but, like Wales and Northern Ireland, has its own semi-autonomous government with broad powers over areas including health care.

The veto was the first time a U.K. government blocked a Scottish law since its government and parliament were established a quarter-century ago.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said on Wednesday that the U.K. government had taken “very careful and considered advice” on the issue before invoking the rarely used veto power. He said the government would follow through with any court case.

Scottish Conservative deputy leader Meghan Gallacher accused Yousaf of trying to distract from a scandal unfolding over SNP finances after the arrest last week of Sturgeon’s husband, who had been the party’s chief executive for more than 20 years.

Peter Murrell resigned just after his wife left office, after admitting that the party had been claiming to have 100,000 members when membership had plunged to 70,000. Police have also been investigating how 600,000 pounds (about $750,000) earmarked for a Scottish independence campaign were spent.

“Desperate times call for desperate measures, so the beleaguered first minister has reached for the nationalists’ playbook and is manufacturing grievance with the UK government,” Gallacher said.


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