EQUALITY campaigners have hit back at calls for further consultation on GRA reform from “UK Government appointees” who shouldn’t be telling Scotland “how to legislate in devolved areas”.

The row erupted on Wednesday after the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), a non-departmental public arm of the UK Government, wrote to Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice Shona Robison and released the letter online.

The correspondence from Baroness Kishwer Falkner, a crossbench peer and EHRC chairwoman, said that a “more detailed consideration is needed before any change is made to the provisions in the Act”.

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There have already been two consultations relating to the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) in Scotland, with the results of the second being published in September 2021.

The proposed changes plan to reduce the time it takes for transgender people to have their gender legally recognised to six months, through a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC), instead of the current process which can take atleast two years and requires a medical diagnosis.

The reforms would remove the medical requirement and trans people would self-declare their gender to a justice of the peace or notary public. 

According to Stonewall, fewer than one in 10 trans people have legal recognition, which means they cannot change their sex on official documents such as birth certificates and tax records.

The SNP-Green government has promised to introduce a revised GRA Bill at Holyrood in the summer. 

Falkner opened her letter by stating there had been “increasingly expressed concerns” about the implications of changing the criteria of the GRC process.

The National:

Equality campaigners have criticised Falkner's remarks regarding GRA reform 

She wrote: “These concerns centre on the potential consequences for individuals and society of extending the ability to change legal sex from a small defined group, who have demonstrated their commitment and ability to live in their acquired gender, to a wider group who identify as the opposite gender at a given point.

“The potential consequences include those relating to the collection and use of data, participation and drug testing in competitive sport, measures to address barriers facing women, and practices within the criminal justice system, inter alia.”

Falkner added: “As such, we consider that more detailed consideration is needed before any change is made to the provisions in the Act.”

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The Baroness then set out why many trans people have criticised the current GRC process as “intrusive, medically-based, bureaucratic and expensive”, adding that there are “unnacceptably long” wait times for gender identity services.

She continued: “We otherwise consider that the established legal concept of sex, together with the existing protections from gender reassignment discrimination for trans people and the ability for them to obtain legal recognition of their gender, collectively provide the correct balanced legal framework that protects everyone.

“This includes protecting trans people from discrimination and harassment, and safeguarding their human rights. Our focus is on continuing to seek opportunities to use our powers to support litigation to protect trans people’s rights.”

The National:

Falkner is a crossbench peer in the House of Lords and Chair of the EHRC

However, equality campaigners accused the EHRC of being “UK Government appointees” and criticised the remarks.

Vic Valentine, manager of Scottish Trans, said: “Reform of gender recognition is one of the most consulted-on policies of all time, with two comprehensive public consultations by the Scottish Government since 2017. The draft bill was fully consulted on a year ago, and everyone had their say. The EHRC itself responded to both public consultations, supporting reform.

“There will of course be much more detailed consideration of the bill as it goes through the Scottish Parliament.”

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Tim Hopkins, director of the Equality Network added: “The EHRC is not independent of government, but has its Board directly appointed by Liz Truss and the UK Government.

“We assume that their appointees are responsible for this letter and for failing to stand up for equality for trans people.

“We do not need UK Government appointees telling us in Scotland how to legislate in devolved areas, and we look forward to the Scottish Government proceeding with this legislation soon, as has been promised many times.”

The Scottish Government has been contacted for comment. 

We previously told how campaigners said Scotland was becoming a “less welcoming place to live” for trans people after Police Scotland figures showed a huge rise in the number of hate crime reports.

Transgender-related hate crime reports rose by 76.7% between 2020/21 and 2021/22, from 43 to 76.