Time for Scottish Labour chiefs to come clean on trans rights

Scottish Labour must stand up for trans rights.

Scottish Labour must stand up for gender recognition reform and the rights of trans people, say the Scottish Greens.

This comes one week after the Scottish Greens equalities spokesperson, Maggie Chapman MSP, wrote to the Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, Ian Murray MP. 

In her letter, to which Mr Murray has yet to respond, Ms Chapman called on him to clarify whether Scottish Labour still supports the principle of self-identification and how Scottish Labour MPs would vote on trans rights in the future.

The letter followed a Guardian piece by the Labour Party’s Shadow Secretary of State for Women & Equalities, Anneliese Dodds MP, which criticised the Scottish Government’s Gender Recognition Reform.

In the days since the letter was sent, the Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, has stressed his opposition to the principle of self-identification, while Shadow Health Secretary, Wes Streeting MP, has appeared to move away from it. 

This comes despite the policy having been backed by a clear majority of Scottish Labour MSPs in Holyrood last December.

Ms Chapman said:

“In the days since I wrote to Ian Murray we have seen the UK Labour Party backtracking even further from a position of supporting gender reform.

"The prospect of a Labour government selling out trans people and weaponising their rights is very concerning.

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

"This view was supported by the overwhelming majority of our Scottish Parliament, including the vast majority of Labour MSPs who rightly voted for gender reform. 

“It’s time for Ian Murray and Anas Sarwar to come clean on where they stand and what this means for Scottish Labour.

“Would Scottish Labour MPs support the self-identification principle like the vast majority of Labour MSPs did and the BMA does? Or will they have to support the far more conservative and medicalised route for which their UK party appears to be advocating?

“This isn’t an abstract debate. It will have a direct impact on the rights and lives of trans people in Scotland and beyond. We cannot allow trans rights to be used as a weapon in a reactionary culture war or as part of an internal Labour Party power struggle.”

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