Rishi Sunak confirms Westminster can block Scotland’s gender bill in blow to Sturgeon

Get real time updates directly on you device, subscribe now.

Rishi Sunak has confirmed that the government has powers to block a new Scottish law which makes it easier for trans people to legally change their gender, and are considering doing so.

Westminster officials have said they are considering the “nuclear option” of blocking the bill from going to royal assent.

On Thursday Scotland had become the first part of the UK to introduce a self-identification system for people who want to change their legal gender.

The UK’s Scottish secretary, Alister Jack, said he could invoke section 35 of the Scotland Act, which gives him an effective veto on laws he believes have an impact on constitutionally reserved matters.

Durign a visit to a homeless shelter today, Mr Sunak said: “Lots of people have got concerns about this new bill in Scotland, about the impact it will have on women’s and children’s safety.

“So I think it is completely reasonable for the UK government to have a look at it, understand what the consequences are for women and children’s safety in the rest of the UK, and then decide on what the appropriate course of action is.”

UK equalities minister Kemi Badenoch similarly claimed the bill has raised concerns, suggesting it may impact on the “functioning of the Equality Act, which is designed to protect all UK citizens”.

However, an attempt to block the bill by the UK Government will be met with fierce resistance from Scotland, said Shona Robison, Scotland’s social justice secretary.

She told BBC Radio Scotland: “The bill as passed is absolutely within legislative competence and, of course, was backed by an overwhelming majority with support from all parties.

“I think any attempt by the UK government to undermine what is, after all, the democratic will of the Scottish parliament, will be vigorously contested by the Scottish government.”

The bill, which passed 86-39, will reform the Gender Recognition Act for Scottish trans people, allowing them to gain legal recognition without the need for a medical diagnosis.

The reforms will also drop the lower age limit for legal recognition to 16.

Stonewall director of nations Colin MacFarlane called the bill’s passing “a tremendous step forward for trans rights and for LGBTQ+ people in Scotland”.

She added: “It brings Scotland into line with international best practice and once again establishes itself as a world leader on human rights, by making a small change which brings dignity to trans people who deserve to be legally recognised for who they are.”