Rishi Sunak would not be acting anti-democratically by blocking Scotland’s new gender law, former Attorney General Dominic Grieve said on Monday as he accused the SNP of seeking to “manufacture a grievance”.
The former senior Tory minister dismissed the row as “political froth” which would ultimately be decided in the courts.
The Prime Minister was expected to announce the UK Government’s response, possibly as early as Monday, to the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill which was passed by the Scottish Parliament on December 22.
The Bill will allow trans people to obtain a gender recognition certificate (GRC) without the need for a medical diagnosis – a process known as “self-identification”.
It will also permit 16 and 17-year-olds to apply for a GRC for the first time, and would reduce the amount of time a person has to live in their acquired gender before they can be granted the document.
The Scotland Act, which established a devolved Scottish government and parliament, gives Westminster four weeks to consider bills passed by Holyrood that could have an “adverse effect on the operation of the law”.
Mr Grieve told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Section 35 of the Scotland Act, passed in 1998, when Scottish devolution was set up, expressly made provision for the possibility that there might be circumstances where in which the Scottish Parliament and Government enacted legislation which had an impact on reserved matters and gave to a UK minister the power to block it.
“Having blocked it, then of course there will be a judicial review of that decision.
“The legal issues will be argued out in the Scottish courts and ultimately probably in the UK Supreme Court to ascertain whether in fact the exercise of the power by the UK minister is correct.
“Of course, I appreciate for political reasons, people want to make a big thing of it, but it is actually just political froth.
“In constitutional terms, the provision of Section 35 was expressly put in by the UK Parliament, at the time of devolution, in anticipation that there would at times be the possiblity of this type of problem.”
He stressed that passing the new law was “completely within the competence” of the Scottish Parliament, but the UK Government could act as the gender law had a “potential impact” on reserved matters, according to ministers, namely the Equality Act which applies across the UK.
He emphasised: “It’s difficult to see that it won’t because it is going to create a situation when somebody crosses the Tweed, the legal framework in which they operate will be different.
“So, there are undoubtedly some practical implications of this, as well as some legal ones.” (Standard)