Nicola Sturgeon’s Scottish gender recognition bill could apply across the UK, a think tank has warned. The conservative Policy Exchange has warned that neighbouring authorities may need to recognise any gender alterations made in Scotland. They claimed results of a study would allow teenage transgender students to attend a single-sex school that aligns with their chosen identity.
Constitutional experts have raised the alarm over a devolved administration guiding Westminster’s hand.
Writing in a forward for the think tank, Lord Keen of Elie said it would be “constitutionally improper” for the Government to allow Scotland to write rules for the UK.
Lord Keen said the gender recognition bill would have a “material impact upon the operation of the law throughout the United Kingdom”.
The Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill was hailed as a game-changing moment for transgender rights after it passed in December last year and gave people as young as 16 the right to change their official gender identity.
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The bill has streamlined the process, allowing them to obtain the change within months without an official gender dysphoria diagnosis.
Backers have celebrated the legislation as a much-needed step forward, given notorious difficulties experienced by those who wish to change gender.
But the Policy Exchange has echoed concerns from within the conservative and ‘gender critical’ community.
The think tank claimed that male students and prisoners with “no trans identity” could use the bill’s provisions to gain entry to female-only institutions.
In the case of inmates, the study claimed it would allow them to make the “strategic” legal decision to move to a less dangerous female prison.
And it added that people could move to Scotland and make the change before moving back to England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Authorities there, the think tank claimed, would then need to recognise the person’s newly altered legal gender.
But the Scottish Government has written provisions into the bill that prevent this kind of misuse.
Any transgender teen or adult must make a “legally binding declaration” that they are living in their acquired gender and “intend to do so permanently”.
Making a false application will become a criminal offence, with officials adding a “statutory aggravator” and taking a “risk-based approach” used to strengthen the legislation.
Regardless, the bill faces a challenge from UK-based lawmakers and organisations.
MPs and other opponents to the bill have urged Scottish Secretary Alister Jack to invoke a Section 35 order using the Scotland Act to prevent King Charles III from giving the legislation royal assent.
The act – which has never seen use in the UK – applies when a bill passed in a devolved nation overrides decisions in Westminster.
The Government is unlikely to invoke the order, as the Gender Recognition Act must first receive approval from Scottish law officers.
Authorities spend 28 days analysing new legislation to decide whether it meets legal requirements for passage.
The bill’s passage on December 22, 2022, means the final decision isn’t due for another week, until January 19.