On Monday, the British government announced that it will block legislation voted by the Scottish Parliament that recognizes and facilitates gender reassignment. London's decision further strains relations with Edinburgh, which called the move "a full frontal attack" on its autonomy.
The controversy started last month, after lawmakers in Scotland voted in favor of legally recognizing transgender people and allowing them to access a new birth certificate, legally confirming their "acquired gender." Any person over the age of 16 could apply for new documentation.
However, the British government claims that the measure does not respect equality legislation that applies throughout the United Kingdom, as Scots would be treated differently. "I am concerned that this legislation will have an adverse impact on the operation of equality legislation in Britain," said Alister Jack, secretary of state for Scotland.
Scotland Act 1998
This Tuesday, Jack will issue the formal order to stop enforcement. The Conservative stated that this decision wasn't made "lightly" and urged the Scottish Parliament to introduce a bill with changes to work together on the issue.
The British Government has the ability to veto the bill as a result of Section 35 of the Scotland Act 1998, which established the autonomy of the Scottish Parliament. Under this section, the secretary of state can block legislation whenever he or she has reason to believe that it is addressing issues that are reserved for the powers for London, such as matters relating to the Crown, national defense or foreign policy.
Nicola Sturgeon's reaction
Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland's First Minister, roundly opposed the UK central government's meddling, calling the move "a full frontal attack" on Edinburgh. She further warned that "if this Westminster veto succeeds, it will be the first of many."
This is a full-frontal attack on our democratically elected Scottish Parliament and it's ability to make it's own decisions on devolved matters. @scotgov will defend the legislation & stand up for Scotland’s Parliament. If this Westminster veto succeeds, it will be first of many https://t.co/3WXrjyivvC
— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) January 16, 2023
Sturgeon, leader of the Scottish National Party, has already clashed with the English authorities over her intentions to organize a new independence referendum. In 2014, with 55.3% of votes in favor and 44.7% against, Scots voted to remain under the British umbrella.
After Brexit, Edinburgh considers that the trend has changed and they want to call for another vote. However, London is opposed to granting a second referendum of these dimensions so soon after the first one.