FIRST Minister Nicola Sturgeon has responded to a letter sent to the Scottish Government calling for "more detailed consideration" of GRA reform by a UK Government group.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has been criticised for the letter by campaigners as "UK Government appointees” who shouldn’t be telling Scotland “how to legislate in devolved areas”.

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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However, the letter prompted anger amongst campaigners, with several LGBT organisations distancing themselves from the EHRC in the aftermath.

The First Minister was asked to give her response to the letter by Tory MSP Meghan Gallagher during FMQs.

Gallagher said: "[The EHRC] outlined the need to improve healthcare services for transgender people and potential consequences of self identification such as collection of data, participation and drug testing in sports, measures to protect barriers facing women and practices in the criminal justice system. 

"Does the First Minister acknowledge the concerns raised by the EHRC and which part of society does the First Minister believe will bear the brunt of these consequences and how does she propose to mitigate those impacts if her government maintains its current plans?"

The First Minister replied by acknowledging the letter and noting that it represents a "significant change in the position" of the EHRC, compared to its submissions during two previous consultations held on GRA reform.

She said: "In response to the 2017 consultation it said this - ‘the Gender Recognition Act 2004 is far removed from reflecting best practice and has a significant negative impact on the lived experience of trans people’.

"In the 2019 consultation on the draft Bill it said, ‘the Commission considers that a simplified system for obtain legal recognition of gender would better support trans people to live their lives free from discrimination and supports the aims of the draft bill’.

"Obviously it’s for the Commission to say why its position has changed but I think it’s important for me to narrate that it is a change in position.

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"I’m also slightly concerned at some of what I consider doesn’t accurately characterise the impact of the Bill.

"What the Bill seeks to do or will seek to do is simplify an existing process. It doesn’t confer any new rights on trans people, nor does it change any of the existing protections in the Equality Act, so it doesn’t change the current position on data collection or the ability of sports organisations to take decisions for example.

"We’ll continue to engage with a range of organisations but let me stress again this is a Bill designed to simplify an existing process to reduce the stress, trauma and the anxiety and often stigmatisation that trans people suffer in our society, and of course the Government will set out its plans for the timetable of that legislation in due course."

The National:

Gallagher asked the FM for her response to the EHRC letter during FMQs

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

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.