Scotland, though united with England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, has its own parliament with substantial authority, including the ability to pass its own laws. However, U.K. laws supersede those of Scotland, much like federal laws supersede state laws in the United States.
Though Scotland and the U.K. tend to act in harmony, a recent planned Scottish law concerning transgenderism has set London and Edinburgh on a collision course.
The Gender Recognition Reform Bill, set to be voted on in the Scottish Parliament on Dec. 21, does away with many requirements to legally change one’s gender on their birth certificate. Current U.K. law requires applicants to be over 18 and have a psychiatric diagnosis to legally change their gender on official documentation. The new Scottish law would do away with these requirements and speed up the process.
While the bill is expected to pass, the rest of the U.K. is less enthusiastic. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s spokesman pointed to a statement by Reem Alsalem, the United Nations rapporteur on violence against women and girls, who warned that such legislation could increase the risks to women and girls by allowing “violent males” to abuse the system, BBC reported.
“We’ve made no decisions on any potential action at this time,” Sunak’s office said regarding whether they would challenge the law in the courts. “As the Equalities and Human Rights Commission and U.N. special rapporteur have set out, the Scottish government’s proposals currently raise a number of clear concerns.”
Transgender activists have dismissed claims the bill could lead to any danger to women and girls. Some have described the current system as “abusive” toward transgender people, according to the Scotsman.
Anonymous U.K. officials speaking with the BBC believe that Scottish ministers are trying to undercut London with the bill, attempting to paint Scotland as a “haven of inclusivity” as opposed to “nasty Westminster.” Others told the outlet that there was “genuine concern” among U.K. officials as to how the law would affect the rest of the U.K.
Scottish officials in support of the bill have claimed that they have attempted to set up talks with London over the bill previously, but to no avail. If the U.K. were to challenge the law, the matter would be taken to the courts.