SCOTTISH ministers are to delay controversial transgender self-identification proposals, saying there needs to be “maximum consensus” on the changes.

Social Security Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville told MSPs a second consultation will be held before a draft Gender Recognition (Scotland) Bill is introduced later this year.

The Scottish Trans Alliance said they were “frustrated” by the delay.

The decision to push back the legislation follows a number of high profile interventions by SNP politicians unhappy at what the reforms could mean for single-sex or women-only spaces and services.

The Scottish Government had planned to change legislation so that it would remove the need for trans people to first provide evidence, including medical records, that they have lived in their chosen gender for at least two years before obtaining a gender recognition certificate – which provides legal recognition that a person has transitioned from male to female or female to male.

Somerville said: “I am acutely aware of how divided opinion is on this issue and I want to proceed in a way that builds maximum consensus and allows valid concerns to be properly addressed.”

She added that any new proposals are still likely to remove the need for applicants to provide medical evidence, but “the current requirements will be replaced by an alternative statutory process”.

The Scottish Government will also consult on whether gender recognition certificates can be issued for people over 16, rather than 18 under the existing rules.

However, despite earlier proposals, ministers have also decided not to extend legal gender recognition to non-binary people. Somerville said the Government has a “duty” to address concerns that changes to gender identification will increase the risks faced by women and “the impact it will have on the provision and protection of single-sex or women-only spaces and services”.

However, she said the Equality Act already allows for trans people to be excluded in certain circumstances “where that is proportionate and justifiable, including where a trans person has legal recognition” and the Act will not be affected in this regard.

“I have stated before, as has the First Minister, that I don’t feel a conflict between my support for women’s rights and for trans rights, but I know and I understand that many do,” she said.

SNP MSP Joan McAlpine, who has been a vocal critic of the legislation, welcomed the consultation: “This proposal is about changing sex and it means that any man can still change his sex to female without a medical diagnosis or any gatekeeping at a time when many more people are identifying as the opposite sex without making physical changes.”

Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale called for the Government to provide additional support for the trans community: “Over the past few months, my trans constituents have had their very existence questioned. They have faced hateful rhetoric and have been told that they are psychologically unwell. All that they want is to have a birth certificate that reflects who they are. They are not ill, but this sustained deliberation over their right to exist is damaging to their mental health and wellbeing.”