I CANNOT agree with Stephen Paton that the SNP has burned bridges with the LGBT community over the last five years (LGBT community needs more than platitudes to restore faith, April 19). It is women they have sacrificed on the altar of ideology.

Stephen bemoans their perceived lack of action on equality, but is a little selective, implying that it is only lowering the legal age of recognising gender identity that is in question, but omitting the part where it is to be on a person’s own self-identification, rather than as a result of medical process and opinion, without hormone treatment and so on having even started.

It is ironic that Stephen cites the suffragettes when the promotion of gender self-identification hugely impacts on women’s rights to safe spaces. Until the suffragette movement, women were second-class citizens in terms of voting and had to fight hard for the right to safe, single-sex spaces for long afterwards as well. The current rights we have under the Equality Act 2010 are at risk from men being simply able to identify as women and therefore not be excluded from changing rooms, rest rooms and even women’s refuges. This has a huge impact on all women and girls.

READ MORE: Stephen Paton: LGBT community needs more than platitudes to restore faith

Do advocates of self-identification really think it is alright for teenage girls to be in a changing room with men who have not transitioned at all? Or would it have been acceptable for women who had been sexually abused by men to be examined by transwomen on their own self-identification? The Forensic Medical Services (Scotland) Bill proposed allowing transwomen, and was only defeated by Johan Lamont’s amendment after a backlash from women. It has been disquieting in the present deliberations to see how many parliamentarians do not seem to see any difference between “sex” and “gender”.

The SNP may have committed to working with a range of groups for future legislation, but appears reluctant to respond to women’s fears apart from with an airy brushing off of our concerns. The bill amendment protecting women has been kicked down the road, possibly in the hope that women will forget about it (we won’t). I am not convinced in any case that dealing with misogyny in general will fully cover specific hate crimes against women. Currently cross-dressing men and transwomen have more protection under the Hate Crime Act than women, whose concerns were brushed aside by the Justice Secretary. We must also resist attempts to label women as either “trans” or “cis”. This may suit certain groups but would probably take away women’s rights under the Equality Act, as being a “ciswoman” is not a protected characteristic, being a “woman” is.

It is true the FM took swift action to calm the trans activists who left the party. What a pity she did not do the same for the thousands of women in the SNP who feel totally let down by her inaction in protecting women’s rights, to the extent that many women have left. Why do the ISP and Alba have a particular attraction not only for women but also for men who are concerned with protecting women’s rights? It is because we have specific policies protecting women’s rights, which sadly cannot be said of the SNP any more.

Stephen cannot seem to distinguish between “transphobia” and legitimate questioning or unease about the extension of trans rights at the expense of women’s rights. In the current climate, just speaking out for women’s rights gets you labelled transphobic, a “TERF”. It would have been nice if Stephen had condemned that.

The Scottish Government has been disingenuous at best or deliberately devious at worst in not making it crystal clear to the public that women’s rights are being severely impacted by legislation which the government is perfectly at ease with. Not everyone has time to view and participate in consultations on the parliament website, or read the submissions being made. It is a shame the SNP does not publicise this aspect of its policies as clearly as it does others such as baby boxes and the new child payment.

To be clear, no-one wants trans people not to have rights, and they should absolutely be protected by the law, but the protection of what is possibly at most 1% of the population of Scotland must not come at the expense of any of the hard-won rights of the 52% of the Scottish population who are women.

Julia Pannell
Friockheim, Tayside