Scottish Labour must not “run scared” on trans rights and equality

The Scottish Greens will always stand with our trans community.

The Scottish Labour leadership is “running scared” and “trying to play both sides” when it comes to trans rights and equality, say the Scottish Greens.

It is one month since Scottish Green MSP Maggie Chapman wrote to Scottish Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, Ian Murray MP, calling on him to clarify whether Scottish Labour still supports the principle of demedicalised self-id for trans people and where Labour stands on the use of the anti-democratic Section 35 Order to torpedo gender recognition reform.

The letter followed a number of statements by senior UK Labour politicians that appeared to move away from the policy, with the Party leader, Sir Keir Starmer, expressing outright opposition. Ian Murray has not responded. 

Since the letter was sent the Party’s Scottish leader Anas Sarwar has refused to say if he would still support the Gender Recognition Reform that he voted for less than nine months ago. 

Ms Chapman said:

“It is very disappointing that Ian Murray is yet to reply to what are extremely basic questions about a policy that was rightly supported by the overwhelming majority of Labour MSPs and that was in the manifesto he was elected on in 2019.

“Self-identification is used around the world. It is normal. As the British Medical Association has said, the question of whether somebody is trans or not should not be a painful and medicalised process. 

“Yet, since I wrote to Mr Murray we have seen even greater backtracking from his Party colleagues. I was particularly concerned to see Anas Sarwar implying that he would no longer support the policy that he voted for.

“From scrapping Section 28 to introducing equal marriage, the Labour Party has played an important role in advancing important equality legislation. Now they are running scared and trying to play both sides at a time when they should be standing with our trans community, who have been the target of a grotesque smear campaign.

“What happens in the months ahead will have a direct impact on the rights and lives of trans people in Scotland and beyond, and it is vital that all progressive parties play their part. We cannot allow the rights and lives of trans people to be cast aside or used as a pawn in a reactionary culture war.”

Text of the letter that Maggie sent Ian Murray on 25th July 2023

Dear Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland

I was very disappointed to see the Labour Party’s Shadow Secretary of State for Women & Equalities, Anneliese Dodds MP, using an article in the Guardian to U-turn on the Labour Party’s commitment to self-identification for trans people.

The article also displays a lack of understanding of the situation in Scotland, referring to the policy that the Scottish Parliament overwhelmingly voted for as “cavalier” and “more about picking a fight with Westminster than bringing about meaningful change.” 

This is one of the most scrutinised pieces of legislation in the history of the Scottish Parliament and was voted for by a vast majority of MSPs, including Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar and most of his Shadow Cabinet.

The use of the Section 35 Order was an attack on trans rights and on devolution. It set an alarming precedent and at the very least has put the rights of a vulnerable community on hold.

This apparent U-turn raises a number of important questions that I, and many others, would like you to clarify.

Would a future Labour government in Westminster respect the right of the Scottish Parliament to legislate on this and other areas or would you seek to keep the Section 35 Order in place?

Would Scottish Labour MPs support the self-identification principle like the vast majority of your Party’s MSPs did, or would they be expected to support the far more conservative and medicalised route advocated for by Annaliese Dodds?

From scrapping Section 28 to introducing equal marriage, the Labour Party has played an important role in advancing important equality legislation. That is precisely why it is so concerning to see the Party moving away from very basic equality principles that are already used across the world.

I look forward to hearing from you, and hope that we can work together to ensure a fairer and more equal future for our LGBTQIA+ community in Scotland and beyond.

Many thanks

Maggie Chapman MSP