SCOTLAND is following international best practice pursuing self-ID gender reforms which will lead to the “full realisation of trans people’s rights”, a report from a European Commissioner has said.

In the same document, UK ­Government officials and parliamentarians were criticised for actively contributing to “an intolerant and stigmatising discourse” around the LGBT community and trying to stoke a culture war against trans people for election purposes.

Dunja Mijatovic, Council of ­Europe commissioner for human rights, ­visited the UK from June 27 to July 1 this year to prepare her report on the state of the current landscape in ­Britain.

The report detailed a variety of ­issues but honed in on the split ­between policy aspirations for LGBT people in Scotland and the rest of the UK.

READ MORE: UN expert hails Scotland's gender recognition reform plans

The Scottish Government’s ­Gender Recognition Reform (GRR) Bill is set for its final stage of debate on ­Wednesday, and there are 127 ­amendments set to be thrashed out by MSPs. The legislation aims to make the administrative process to obtain a Gender Recognition ­Certificate (GRC) easier, as it has frequently been described as “traumatic” and “demoralising” by trans Scots.

One of the most controversial ­aspects of the GRR legislation relates to self-identification, the removal of the medical requirement, replacing it instead with a statutory declaration to the Registrar General. Applicants for a GRC would also only have to live in their “acquired gender” for three months instead of two years, and while 16- and 17-year-olds will be able to apply, a stage two amendment extended the time period for the age group to six months.

In the report, Mijatovic set out the UK Government’s signal of support for Gender Recognition Reforms in 2018 following a public ­consultation, including self-ID. By 2020, the Tories had U-turned, stating that the current process was correct and “it would only act to lower costs for legal ­gender recognition to a nominal amount and to move the procedure online”, she added.

Noting the Scottish Government’s different approach, the commissioner said: “Without intending to ­comment in detail on current and proposed ­legislation, the commissioner notes that lowering barriers to legal gender recognition is key to the full realisation of trans people’s rights.”

Mijatovic added that self-ID ­follows “best practice” at an ­international level, citing the World Health ­Organisation’s (WHO) removal of trans ­issues from the list of mental ­diseases, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) which urged EU member states to implement self-ID and noted similar recommendations from the UN ­expert on gender ­identity.

She added: “The commissioner ­considers that, from a human rights ­perspective, self-determination models for legal gender recognition ­represent a best practice, and the ­introduction of such a model in the UK would therefore constitute an ­important step forward.”

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The report follows a judgment made by Lady Haldane at the Court of ­Session last week, where she ruled that transgender women with a GRC can be legally defined as women, in ­relation to legislation aiming to ­ensure gender balance on public boards.

One of the main Gender Critical ­arguments against self-ID is that GRR reforms could impact on single-sex spaces, with the implication that the system will be abused by men seeking to commit violence against women.

Rachael Hamilton, right, the Tories’ Holyrood equalities spokesperson, claimed ahead of the final stage of the bill that “women’s rights and safety” are at stake if it passes in its current form, and urged MSPs to “vote with their conscience” and oppose the reforms.

She said: “Now that we have a clearer picture of the implications of these misguided reforms, there is no longer any excuse for MSPs who hold private concerns over the ­legislation to stay silent.

“With women’s rights and safety at stake, this is no time to play politics or prioritise personal advancement.”

However, the commissioner ­pointed out that transgender people and women are not in “competition with each other” for the realisation of their human rights, but are “far more likely to have a shared ­experience of prejudice, gender inequality, harmful stereotyping, and a higher ­vulnerability to violence”.

She added: “The commissioner ­observes that the concerns being raised often appeal to ­unfounded fears and prejudices against trans ­people and that they are not ­supported by evidence.”

Mijatovic also raised concerns over the equal treatment of trans people in the UK, adding that the toxic rhetoric around the issue is ­threatening to “weaken” human rights protections and is putting pressure on ­institutions to exclude trans people.

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Last week, Harry Potter ­author JK Rowling (above), who has campaigned against the GRR reforms and wore a t-shirt dubbing Nicola Sturgeon a “destroyer of women’s rights”, ­announced the opening of a “women-only” support service for female ­victims of sexual violence in Edinburgh called Beira’s Place. Rape Crisis, which has been trans and ­non-binary inclusive for the past 15 years and has 17 centres across Scotland, said it was “crucial” support was extended to minority groups.

Mijatovic met with trans people in the UK and added she had been told “harrowing” stories of discrimination and abuse during her two-day ­visit. The report was also highly critical of the UK Government and parliamentarian’s roles in contributing to an “intolerant and stigmatising discourse” around trans rights and said work needs to be done to rebuild trust with the LGBT community.

“The commissioner is particularly concerned by the apparently deliberate attempts by some politicians to turn the situation of trans people into ‘culture wars’ or ‘wedge’ issue for electoral purposes,” she added.

During the summer Tory leadership contest, the concept of self-ID and trans rights – as well as the definition of a woman – became one of the main issues discussed during televised debates and at numerous hustings across the country. Kemi Badenoch, one of the leadership ­contenders and is vocally against self-ID, is now the UK Government’s women and ­equalities minister.

Maggie Chapman (below), the Scottish Greens equalities spokesperson, said UK ministers had been at the heart of the “cynical and hateful campaign of disinformation and ­scaremongering that have been used against trans ­people”.

The National: Maggie Chapman

She added: “They have ­knowingly scapegoated and demonised an ­already vulnerable community and treated them as a source of ridicule. This has only contributed to the ­hostility and abuse that far too many people have had to suffer and endure.

“The approach we are taking in Scotland is very different.”

A UK Government equality hub spokesperson said: “In 2020 the UK Government made clear that the Gender Recognition Act allows people to change their legal sex whilst maintaining the necessary checks and balances in the system. There are no plans to change this.

“As the special rapporteur on ­violence against women and girls has set out, there are a number of concerns with the Scottish Government’s proposals. We are continuing to monitor the process of the bill, but no decision on any potential action has been taken at this time.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We are concerned at the commissioner’s finding that ‘trans persons in the UK face increasingly hostile and toxic political and public discourse’. This does not serve ­anyone well.

“However, we welcome the ­commissioner having noted that self-determination models for legal gender recognition represent best practice and that they are already used by other countries.

“This position has also been backed this week by the UN’s independent expert on sexual orientation and gender identity. Both reports show that the measures in the Gender Recognition Reform Bill are in line with international obligations and standards.”

Reem Alsalem, UN special rapporteur, previously claimed that ­Scotland’s self-ID plans would have “global significance” and allow predatory men to abuse the system, despite 18 countries already having the policy in place, including many in Europe.

We previously told how a European professor in human rights disputed Alsalem’s claims and said cases of abuses of the system, which is based on self-determination, have “not ­occurred” in Belgium or elsewhere.

The chair of the Scottish ­Human Rights Commission rejected ­Alsalem’s calls for the reforms to be postponed, as did six women’s and rights groups including Rape Crisis Scotland, Amnesty International Scotland and Scottish Women’s Aid.

Victor Madrigal-Borloz, UN ­special rapporteur with an expertise in ­discrimination based on gender ­identity, also came out in support of Scotland’s self-ID reforms ahead of the final GRR vote, which is expected to pass due to cross-party support.