THIS time last year there was a real sense of hope in the air among Scotland’s trans community and our allies.

Seven years, dozens of rallies, hundreds of amendments, but hope was on the horizon as it was clear the parliamentary arithmetic meant that the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill was almost certain to pass through the Scottish Parliament.

And then of course, it did. A two-thirds majority of MSPs – including members of all five of the parties represented in Holyrood at the time – voted for the legislation after hours of late-night debates, and the trans community breathed a sigh of relief as the years of scrutiny and our rights and lives being in the spotlight would finally come to an end. Oh, how peaceful those few days were.

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Of course what followed has been one of the most hostile years for trans and LGBT+ equality in recent memory, beginning with the blocking of the bill by Alister Jack at the start of January, and fittingly concluding with confirmation that such a move was legal with Lady Haldane’s ruling last week.

In the time between these pivotal moments, we’ve seen transphobic hate rise to record rates, and the UK Government and media pounce on trans people and our lives as ammunition in the so-called culture wars.

So where do we go from here?

It’s easy to feel a sense of despair following last week’s judgment – not only for the bill itself, but for the general direction of trans rights in the UK. It’s natural and normal to feel that pain, especially when the legislation could’ve made such a direct and significant impact on our lives, and was struck down by Westminster in a move driven by hate and ideology.

That being said, hope is not all lost. The Scottish Government will no doubt be currently discussing with its lawyers the possibility of an appeal to the ruling, and calls have already been made to consider all options for appeal by leading LGBT+ charities as well as the Scottish Green Party.

It’s not clear at this moment how likely an appeal is to succeed, but if there’s any chance of it succeeding at all, the Scottish Government must take it. Devolution and the very fabric of Scottish democracy are far too important for them not to do so – regardless of the contents of the bill itself.

Let’s say though that any routes to appeal fail – what then? Well, the bill has still passed through the Scottish Parliament, and still sits on its books. The Section 35 order simply prevents it from proceeding to royal assent and becoming law.

That means that any future Scottish Secretary of State in the UK Government could simply choose to lift the Section 35 order, and the bill would pass through to royal assent and would become law.

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With it looking increasingly likelier by the day that the current rotten Conservative Party will be vacating Whitehall by this time next year, all eyes should be on Ian Murray, Alister Jack’s most likely replacement in an upcoming Starmer-led government, who could reset the relationship between Holyrood and Westminster in his first days in office by lifting Section 35 and allowing trans people to thrive.

Once again, the likelihood of this actually happening remains to be seen, and Scottish Labour’s flip-flopping on the issue of the bill has been nothing short of embarrassing for them, and traumatic for the trans community.

Scottish Labour whipped their MSPs to vote for the bill last December, but their response to Section 35 was to play the “both sides” game as is their modus operandi, terrified that any semblance of solidarity with the Scottish Government would alienate their hard-line Unionist voter base, the trans community be damned.

That’s not to absolve the Scottish Government from blame entirely. If the SNP had passed these reforms when first promised seven years ago, the policy would’ve aligned with that of Theresa May’s government in Westminster and many of the woes the SNP currently face likely would’ve never manifested – but that’s a whole other column.

There is no question that in the case of Section 35, this was an overreach by Westminster, trampling on devolution, Scottish democracy and trans equality in a singular stomp.

Not all the reaction from Labour at the time was poor – I recall the response from Paul Sweeney MSP quite well. “It’s about time Viceroy Jack got back in his box” he told the media following the announcement, which he also described as “a politically malicious act”.

I question, if Murray were to sit idly by and refuse to lift the Section 35 order if he becomes the next Scottish Secretary of State, whether we will hear calls of “Viceroy Murray” from Scottish Labour MSPs?

Will Murray, a potential future Scottish Secretary of State from the so-called party of devolution, stand up for the democratic right of the Scottish Parliament to pass laws within its devolved competency?

Will he allow a bill to pass which his own party whipped in support of? If the past few weeks are anything to go by, I won’t get my hopes up. Murray’s response to last week’s ruling was as weak as a wet paper towel, simply noting that the ruling should be “respected” and continuing the blame-both-sides narrative that has become all too familiar from Labour.

In an interview in October, he refused to categorically rule out use of Section 35 himself. It raises more questions about where Labour’s MPs in Scotland get their orders from. Is it from the Scottish Labour who supported and voted for the Gender Recognition Reform Bill?

Or is it from Keir Starmer and his UK Labour Party which is so desperate for the votes of Tory-voting middle Englanders that he’ll throw any minority under the bus to do so?

Murray may soon have the ability to answer this question once and for all, but it’s ordinary trans people whose rights and futures hang in the balance.