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UK gender battle stirs talk of independence in Scotland

27-01-2023

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND: Heather Herbert is happier now than at any other point in her life.

The 47-year-old Trans woman, who moved to Scotland’s northeast from her birthplace of Leicester, England, around a decade ago, transitioned in 2015.

It was a decision she arrived at after “a lot of soul searching”.

“I’ve always felt like a girl or a woman more than a male,” Herbert told media, “but I just didn’t have the words for it back when I was younger.”

When she first heard the term “transgender”, it was shrouded in negative connotations “that Tran’s people were weirdos and strange … and all the other negative words you can think of” and it was only after meeting others with similar experiences that she finally saw she was not alone.

Sturgeon, the left-of-centre leader of the pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP), labelled the move by the pro-union Conservative government of British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak a “full-frontal attack”, exposing yet another constitutional fault line between Edinburgh and London.

Herbert, an active campaigner for the pro-independence Scottish Green Party, which has a power-sharing arrangement with the SNP government at the Scottish Parliament, echoed Sturgeon’s view.

“In a way, the Gender Recognition Bill is a perfect gift to the Conservatives,” she said. “They get to attack both LGBTQ+ people, Scotland and the Scottish government all in one move.”

For Herbert, and many others in Scotland’s trans community today, the personal is the political but this cross-border clash between the two administrations comes hot on the heels of the UK government’s ongoing refusal to grant the Scottish government the right to hold a second independence referendum, following the first such vote in 2014, which saw Scots reject sovereignty by 55-45 percent.

This decision was endorsed last November by the highest court in the land after Scotland’s first minister referred the dispute to the UK Supreme Court.

Indeed, despite an SNP-Green independence-supporting majority in the Scottish Parliament, and the SNP’s repeated electoral wins, judges last year ruled that any such poll held without Westminster’s consent would be unlawful.

Yet while unionists who voted for the Gender Recognition Bill in the Scottish Parliament remain implacably opposed to Scottish independence, this did not stop some from speaking out against the British government’s intervention.

Scottish Labour Party parliamentarian Monica Lennon, who, like most of her Labour colleagues in the Edinburgh parliament, voted in favour of the gender bill, described London’s actions as a “cynical and dangerous power move by an out-of-control UK government”.

As supporters of gender reform in Scotland lick their wounds, critics of the legislation, who voiced concerns that making it easier for a man to transition into a woman could threaten the safety of women-only spaces, feel vindicated and while the Scottish government plans its next move, pro-union supporters of the bill are pleased that Westminster’s intervention has re-asserted the UK government’s constitutional dominance.

“Luckily we have the safeguards of the UK, and I think this has … reaffirmed people’s faith in the union,” said Alastair Redman, a one-time Scottish Conservative Party member, who now sits as an independent councillor for Scotland’s Argyll and Bute Council, and who has always opposed the bill. (Int’l Monitoring Desk)

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