AT first glance there might not be any obvious connection between this week’s election of a new SNP National Executive Committee and a High Court ruling about the medical treatment of children in England and Wales. Firstly, health is devolved. Secondly, weren’t those elections a victory in the “war on woke”, a blow to those who keep banging on about equality when they should just wheesht for indy?

That depends who you listen to. It might be hard to hear anything above the loud crowing and gloating from certain quarters.

If the aim is to drive young people out of the SNP then it might succeed. If the aim is to champion women’s rights, then I’d respectfully suggest these chaps should be the ones to wheesht.

They should instead listen to the alarm that has been sounded south of the Border. A young woman named Keira Bell has – diligently, respectfully, and with extraordinary courage – been pressing a pin against the balloon that is “gender affirmative care” for children who identify as transgender. This approach means clinicians confirm the child’s belief that they were born in the wrong body, and therefore their body needs to change.

On Tuesday that balloon burst.

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Bell began identifying as a boy when she was 14 and was referred to gender identity specialists in London at 16. She was prescribed puberty-suppressing drugs followed by testosterone, and at 20 underwent a double mastectomy.

In the year that followed, she realised it had all been a mistake. That her teenage vision of becoming male was, in fact, a fantasy and that she should have been given counselling, not hormones and surgery. “Transition was a very temporary, superficial fix for a very complex identity issue,” she says.

Determined to protect others like herself from a similar fate, she took legal action against Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust, which runs the Gender Identity Development Service that provided her treatment. She argued that children cannot give informed consent to begin treatment with such serious implications, including infertility.

The High Court in London agreed with Bell that children under 16 are unlikely to be mature enough to give informed consent to “changing sex”, and asserted that the treatments on offer were experimental. This pathway begins with suppressing puberty and progresses to cross-sex hormones, which cause irreversible changes including breast growth in young men and deepening of the voice in young women.

You might still be wondering what this has to do with Scotland, let alone the SNP. Isn’t the “trans row” about women’s toilets, and angry young men shouting at Joanna Cherry on Twitter? And can’t all this just wait until after independence?

The National: Joanna Cherry

No, it isn’t, and no, it can’t. The Scottish Government may have shelved (for now) its plans to reform the Gender Recognition Act, but the implications of the ideology underpinning those plans are wide-ranging and profound. This week’s judgement merely confirmed what women have been saying for years: this is a child protection crisis.

Sexism and homophobia are at the heart of the stereotypes that comprise “gender” – the societal expectations a culture places on girls and boys, men and women. We cannot, as a society, claim to be working to root out either of these problems while failing to challenge policies that uphold them.

The Sandyford in Glasgow – the only clinic in Scotland that can prescribe puberty-blocking drugs – says it will not change its protocols following the English ruling. The information it provides to children is in the process of being updated, and has been since the summer.

Keira Bell is not alone. Young girls all over the world – including in Scotland – are being sold the lie that because they do not conform to sex stereotypes they might actually be boys. The reverse is also happening, but it’s the referral rates for girls that have rocketed in recent years. Unfortunately we don’t know the proportions in Scotland, because Sandyford cannot provide sex disaggregated data about its patients.

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The Tavistock isn’t great at data collection either. The High Court judgement found it “surprising” that it did not collate data about the age distribution of patients treated with puberty-blocking drugs, or the proportion of these who progressed to cross-sex hormones. International evidence suggests that once a child is on this pathway, it is very unlikely they will come off it. This puts in context the claim that the puberty blockers (the long-term effects of which are unclear) are merely a harmless “pause button”.

It would be so easy if the answer to all of this was to just “be kind”, or to cross our fingers and hope everything works out of the best. But that won’t help the children in distress who are being given experimental treatments.

What we don’t need are middle-aged men ranting at young folk, using “woke”, a term with origins in the civil rights movement, as an insult and re-inforcing the belief that anyone questioning gender identity ideology is a reactionary bigot.

Instead, the complex questions raised by this week’s judgement demand grown-up rational, evidence-based discussions and the urgent review of Scotland’s health, education and social work policies. The SNP’s new women’s and equalities conveners understand this, but does the Government? This is not some trifling “culture war” that can be safely ignored. This is serious, and there is no time to waste.