The legislation distinguishes Scotland from the rest of the UK, where the minimum age is 18 and a medical diagnosis is required.
Britain’s central government blocked the law, invoking for the first time a section of the 25-year-old law that gave the Scottish parliament control over most of its own affairs. Section 35 gives UK authorities the power to prevent the implementation of measures that interfere with matters reserved for central government.
The decision highlights the tensions inherent in constitutional arrangements that cede authority over many areas of daily life to the “devolved” administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, while reserving control over national and related issues. to England for the UK government at Westminster.
Frustration over the United Kingdom’s continued role in Scotland has fueled the country’s independence movement. Scotland’s parliament, based in the Holyrood area of Edinburgh, is controlled by the pro-independence Scottish National Party.
“Today’s ruling confirms without a doubt that the return is fundamentally wrong,” Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf he said in a post on X, formerly Twitter. “The court has confirmed that Westminster can overturn legislation passed by a majority at Holyrood.”
Yousaf said he would nevertheless respect the sentence.
The confrontation began earlier this year when Scottish lawmakers overwhelmingly approved the Gender Recognition Bill by 86 votes in favor and 39 against.
But the UK government prevented the bill from receiving royal assent, the final formality before the legislation becomes law. Scotland Secretary Alister Jack said at the time he was concerned the bill would conflict with “equality legislation across Britain” which guarantees women and girls access to single-sex spaces, such as changing rooms and shelters.
Scottish officials questioned the central government’s actions, arguing that they interfered with Scotland’s right to govern itself.
The Court of Session disagreed.
“Section 35, in and of itself, does not affect the separation of powers or any other fundamental constitutional principle,” Justice Shona Haldane said in her ruling. “Rather, it is itself part of the constitutional framework.”
Regardless of the constitutional issues, the decision disappointed trans rights activists who support self-identification for changes in gender identification.
“Unfortunately, this means more uncertainty for trans people in Scotland, who will now be waiting once again to see if they will be able to gain legal recognition of their gender through a process that is in line with leading countries such as Ireland, Canada and New Zeeland. ” LGBTQ+ rights group Stonewall said in a statement.
The Scottish Government says the legal change would have improved the lives of transgender people by making it easier for them to obtain official documents that correspond to their gender identities.
Opponents say it risked allowing predatory men to gain access to spaces intended for women, such as shelters for domestic abuse survivors. Others argue that the minimum age for transition should remain 18.