A SCOTTISH Government minister has claimed Westminster repeatedly refused to explore ways to avoid deploying the nuclear option of blocking gender recognition reforms.

Shirley-Anne Somerville, the Social Justice Secretary, formally announced in parliament on Wednesday the Government’s reasons for challenging the Section 35 order which effectively vetoed the Gender Recognition Reform (GRR) Bill.

She said the Edinburgh administration had “no option” but to take the UK Government to court over the unprecedented block – rejecting London’s claims the veto had been used as a “last resort”.

The minister claimed the UK Government had “explicitly endorsed” the Scottish Government’s plans to change the law in meetings before MSPs voted to pass the legislation.

Somerville painted a picture of a UK Government which refused to use any of the avenues available to it before striking down the bill unilaterally.

READ MORE: Alister Jack says UK Government will 'robustly defend' gender bill veto

She said: “Rather than raising concerns or amendments through normal government channels, rather than following the Memorandum of Understanding, the Secretary of State used the Section 35 power [as] an absolute veto to strike down any devolved legislation, passed by a majority of this Parliament, he dislikes without discussion, based on political not policy judgement.”

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack refused to meet with Shona Robison, then-social justice secretary, to discuss the order after it was issued, Somerville said.

She added: “Immediately after receiving Mr Jack’s letter in January, Shona Robison offered a meeting with the Secretary of State in which she offered a potential way forward: the Scottish Government would work with the UK Government at both ministerial and official level to explore potential amendments to the bill.

“The Secretary of State absolutely refused this offer, stating that there would be no further meetings between the governments on this issue.

"He set out three options for the Scottish Government: we could drop the bill passed by a majority of this parliament altogether; we could address his concerns in an amended bill but without providing what areas needed to be amended to allow the Section 35 to be dropped; or we could pursue legal action.”

Somerville also said she hoped to publish on Thursday the Government's application to the Court of Session to have its case heard.  

The Scottish Conservatives' constitutional affairs spokesperson Donald Cameron said the court case was likely to be "lengthy and expensive" as he claimed the challenge was an attempt to deflect attention from the police probe into the SNP

Maggie Chapman, the Scottish Greens' equalites spokesperson, said the UK Government had acted "disgracefully" and the challenge was "vital for the rights of trans people and for Scotland’s democracy". 

She added: "The Tories are clearly acting in bad faith, and clearly have no intention of genuine discussion. They are using the Section 35 order as a weapon in their cynical and hateful culture war against trans people and the wider LGBTQIA+ community.

“Trans people have waited far too long for rights that many of us take for granted. We cannot undo the pain that has been caused but we can build a better and more inclusive future. GRR is a vital step on that journey.”

A UK Government spokesperson said: "The UK Government will robustly defend the decision to prevent the Scottish Government's Gender Recognition Reform Bill from becoming law.

"The Scottish Secretary made the order under Section 35 of the Scotland Act 1998 after thorough and careful consideration of all the relevant advice and the policy implications.

"He was very clear in the accompanying Statement of Reasons how the bill would have an adverse effect on reserved matters, including on the operation of the law as it applies to Great Britain-wide equalities protections.

“The use of the power is entirely within the devolution settlement as set out from its inception, with cross-party support.”