The trans rights dispute sparks a crisis for Nicola Sturgeon’s leadership

Within days of the revelation, it was announced that another offender, Tiffany Scott, who had stalked a 13-year-old girl while living as a man, would be transferred to a women’s prison.

The cases have sparked heated debates across the UK and deepened divisions over gender reform legislation within the SNP.

A photograph of Isla Bryson Scottish Police when she lived as Adam Graham.

A photograph of Isla Bryson Scottish Police when she lived as Adam Graham.Credit:AAP

Several high-profile critics have also emerged, including former SNP chairman Alex Salmond, who has called Sturgeon’s position “unsustainable,” while former SNP vice chairman Jim Sillars said the problem could be their “head steering moment” — a reference to the backlash against former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s attempts to replace domestic interest rates in 1989, which was a gross misreading of public sentiment.

“The basis of our argument for independence – that we could do things better on our own – is undermined by this gender fiasco,” he wrote The Sunday Times.

In the Sunday postFormer SNP member Joan McAlpine described gender self-identification as a “personal passion of the first minister,” adding that she “must answer for any harm done to women, of course, but also to her party and to the cause of independence.” “.

While the gender wars have mostly played out in the social circles of highly engaged political observers, the Bryson affair sharpened the focus on Sturgeon’s gender politics. And her uneasiness about the matter over the past week has been palpable.

“She considers herself a woman; I view the person as a rapist,” Sturgeon said after being repeatedly pointed out at a press conference why she had used “she” and “her” when describing Bryson.

“If you believe that a person of that description is a woman in a prison context, that does not automatically give that person the right to be placed in a women’s prison.”

The SNP leader had previously tried to dodge questions about Bryson’s gender, but admitted last week that she believed “the rapist” was “almost certainly” posing as a woman.

When asked in Parliament whether Bryson was a woman, Sturgeon said: “This person claims to be a woman. I have no information as to whether or not these claims are valid.”

Sturgeon’s handling of the issue has also raised broader questions about her judgment. A YouGov poll last weekend showed her approval rating has slipped into negative territory from plus seven to minus four since October.

IPSOS found that 50 per cent backed the UK government's move to block the SNP's gender recognition reform bill.

IPSOS found that 50 per cent backed the UK government’s move to block the SNP’s gender recognition reform bill. Credit:Getty

A separate Ipsos poll found that 50 per cent of respondents supported the UK government’s move to block the SNP’s gender recognition reform bill, compared with just 33 per cent who opposed it. As many as 31 percent of SNP voters said the UK government should have blocked the bill, showing Sturgeon’s attempts to use the issue to stoke nationalist fires hadn’t worked. Her critics in the party believe that gender has threatened independence.

Since 62 per cent of Scots voted to remain in the European Union in 2016, despite the collective outcome across Britain in favor of leaving, Sturgeon has continued to push for a repeat of the 2014 independence referendum in which Scots voted 55 per cent to 45 percent voted to remain in the UK.


Sturgeon was already facing dissent within her own party over the controversial gender reform legislation – nine of her own MPs opposed the legislation, which passed 88 votes to 33, and one from her own cabinet, Ash Regan, even stepped up as Scottish Minister for community back security so she could object to the bill.

But its passage was seen as a victory for Sturgeon, who said it was her responsibility to “make life a little easier for the stigmatized minorities in our country.” Prime Minister Rishi Sunak later said he would block the law, arguing it would run counter to the Westminster Equality Act 2010 by, for example, making it harder for women’s spaces to exclude people biologically born male.

The disruption laws would reduce the age at which people can receive a gender-recognition certificate to 16, eliminate the need for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria — the sense of discomfort or distress some trans people feel when their bodies don’t match their gender — and shortens to three months the period someone must live in their gender before receiving a certificate.

Bryson’s sex remains legally male. Current laws require a medical diagnosis for a person to be eligible for a Gender Recognition Certificate. However, under Sturgeon’s proposed legislation – currently blocked by the UK government – Bryson could have filed for a legal sex change without a diagnosis within months of being charged.

The trans community is in limbo awaiting what will happen with Nicola Sturgeon's legislation.

The trans community is in limbo awaiting what will happen with Nicola Sturgeon’s legislation.Credit:Getty

Vic Valentine, manager of Scottish Trans, an advocacy group, said that while it was “good to see people in positions of power, like the First Minister, supporting the trans community”, it was disappointing that transgender people were now “again.” in limbo”.

“We believe that anyone who has committed sexually violent crimes and poses a risk to women should not be housed with women on women’s property,” Valentine said.


“A blanket regulation as to where imprisoned trans people are housed would be wrong. In a community of any size, there will be some people who commit appalling crimes – that doesn’t and shouldn’t reflect the majority of that community.”

James Mitchell, a professor of public policy at the University of Edinburgh, said the Bryson-Scott controversy was likely to “upset many SNP members” who he said were baffled by how such a divisive issue dominated debate in the party.

“There’s always been a strand within the SNP that thought independence was what we were about and everything else was secondary,” he said.

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Callan Tansill

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