THE UK Government has blocked the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill from becoming law after it was passed overwhelmingly by MSPs.

The bill received cross-party support at Holyrood before Christmas with some Conservative MSPs even breaking ranks to back it.

But Westminster has decided to use a Section 35 Order to stop the bill from getting Royal Assent.

This order has never been used before to block a piece of Holyrood legislation and is expected to spark a major constitutional row.

READ MORE: LIVE: Scotland reacts as UK blocks gender bill in unprecedented move

Under Section 35 of the Scotland Act 1998, Secretary of State for Scotland Alister Jack can stop a Holyrood bill from becoming law if they think it would modify laws reserved to Westminster and have an “adverse effect” on how those laws apply.

In a statement, he said: “I have decided to make an order under section 35 of the Scotland Act 1998, preventing the Scottish Parliament’s Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill from proceeding to Royal Assent.

The National: Alister Jack has a difficult decision to make over the Gender Recognition Act

“After thorough and careful consideration of all the relevant advice and the policy implications, I am concerned that this legislation would have an adverse impact on the operation of Great Britain-wide equalities legislation. 

“Transgender people who are going through the process to change their legal sex deserve our respect, support and understanding. My decision today is about the legislation’s consequences for the operation of GB-wide equalities protections and other reserved matters. 

“I have not taken this decision lightly. The Bill would have a significant impact on, amongst other things, GB-wide equalities matters in Scotland, England and Wales. I have concluded, therefore, that this is the necessary and correct course of action. 

“If the Scottish Government chooses to bring an amended Bill back for reconsideration in the Scottish Parliament, I hope we can work together to find a constructive way forward that both respects devolution and the operation of UK Parliament legislation. 

“I have written today to the First Minister and the Scottish Parliament’s Presiding Officer informing them of my decision.” 

The GRR bill would make it easier for trans people to obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) by removing the need for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, lowering the age threshold for applications, and reducing the time applicants need to live in their acquired gender.

However, during the amendments stage, a change was made to the rules for 16 and 17-year-olds, which requires them to live in their acquired gender for six months, while for over 18s it is only three. 

The UK Government has said a simplified Scottish system for changing gender could affect UK-wide equalities law but the Scottish Government has insisted the bill will have no impact on it.

The GRR bill itself explicitly states that it has no impact on the Equality Act 2010. 

A judicial review could be launched against the Secretary of State’s ruling.

It comes as Labour leader Keir Starmer sparked a backlash after contradicting his MSPs during the Sunday broadcast media round, and has been accused of parroting Tory myths around the reforms. 

And, Jamie Greene, one of the Tory MSPs who backed the reforms, said blocking the bill would be a "gift" to the independence movement. 

More to follow.