THE co-operation agreement between the SNP and Scottish Greens contains a pledge to introduce a gender reform bill “in the first year of this parliamentary session”.

The statement would hold the parties to introducing the bill before the end of May 2022.

The controversial Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill was shelved by ministers in April 2020 at the onset of the Covid pandemic.

Now, the Greens and SNP hope to get the bill introduced within the next nine months.

In the parties’ draft shared policy programme, it states: “We will reform the Gender Recognition Act in a Bill introduced in the first year of this parliamentary session.

“This will ensure the process by which a trans person can obtain legal recognition is simplified, reducing the trauma associated with that process.”

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Above that stated aim the document says the parties recognise “that trans people in particular continue to suffer poorer outcomes relative to the wider population, and this needs to change”.

Campaigners say that having to convince “gatekeepers” in the medical profession that one is “trans enough” to be granted a gender recognition certificate is demeaning. They want this system reformed.

A proposal which would allow someone to self-identify as another gender, as long as they can show they have been living as their acquired gender for at least three months and make a solemn statutory declaration that they intend to do so permanently, has proven controversial.

Critics argue that allowing self-identification will infringe on the rights of women, such as the right to have single-sex spaces.

Asked at a press event if the simplification of the process “by which a trans person can obtain legal recognition” was equivalent to self-identification, Nicola Sturgeon said: “The Gender Recognition bill, the SNP have said, in fact we said in our manifesto we would introduce it at the earliest opportunity.

“This agreement stresses that it will be introduced in the first year and simplifying the process is about making the process of gender recognition easier for those who want to go through it.

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“People can change gender legally already but the process is cumbersome, is lengthy, and is deeply traumatic. This is about simplifying that.

“Obviously the detail of any legislation is for parliament to properly scrutinise and determine, but the intention to make this much simpler for those going through the process is very clear.

“This is an issue that is debated hotly but I think it is really important that we recognise trans people are some of the most stigmatised in our communities and act to improve that in any way we can.”

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Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie (above) added: “I’ve often over the course of the last parliamentary session had cause to reflect on the fact that not at this year’s Holyrood election but the one five years before all political parties made a promise to enact that legislation and a great many people in Scotland do feel that that absolutely needs to be done. No more delays.

“A draft bill has already been consulted on in the last session and I look forward very strongly to seeing that introduced to parliament, and as the First Minister said, scrutinised in the normal way.”

The Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) urged ministers in May this year to end the “dithering” on proposed gender recognition reforms, saying that the delay had helped create a “toxic environment” for trans people.

Alex Salmond’s Alba party argued that in a list of priorities the SNP and Greens wish to achieve from the agreement, independence has been sidelined in favour of gender reform.

They cited the parties' commitment to bring forward a bill on the issue within the first year of the parliamentary term, while no such timescale was given for indyref2.

Instead, the agreement commits to holding an independence vote in this parliamentary term, and within its first half should the Covid crisis have passed.