Holyrood must challenge Westminster’s baseless blocking of the Gender Recognition Reform Bill, or it will be open season on Scottish Bills. And trans people might feel a little worry at Nicola Sturgeon stepping down, when Kate Forbes, the anti-trans, anti-abortion Presbyterian might be the choice for leader of “feminist” anti-trans campaigners. But the coverage has been shocking.
Why did Sturgeon leave? Because, after eight fantastically successful years as First Minister, she may not have the energy to carry through the independence strategy. The SNP meets to discuss this in Glasgow next month. The idea of calling the UK general election a de facto poll on independence, and the strength and sureness of touch needed to handle the aftermath whatever the polling in winter 2024/5, requires one leader to establish themself, wholly committed to the policy if it is chosen, from this year.
In the Guardian, Herald columnist Dani Garavelli wrote a comment article generally praising Sturgeon, showing her deranged opposition to GRR. It is as if GRR affects everyone in the UK, rather than a few thousand trans people in Scotland. “The accusation that she has squandered her right to be considered a feminist must be painful.” No, an accusation is painful if there is a half-truth in it. That accusation only deserves scorn and disgust.
Garavelli writes that there were “errors of judgment” on GRR, because of Sturgeon’s “reluctance to listen to anyone outside her inner circle”. Why should she listen to a few obsessive transphobes, when most of Scottish civil society supported GRR?
These attack lines indicate the complete lack of proportion of the hate campaigners, not any problem with Sturgeon. It was the same at the press conference: she was asked if the row over Isla Bryson spending a night in a women’s prison was “the final straw”. Only because of the utter hatred of the anti-trans campaigners, whose t-shirts read “Nicola Sturgeon, destroyer of women’s rights”. This is the woman who enabled Me Too complaints against her predecessor Alec Salmond to get as far as they did.
The Telegraph headline was insane. On the front page, it screamed “Sturgeon brought down by trans row”. Its first sentence claimed “her radical approach to transgender rights cost her the support of her party”, though almost all her MSPs voted for the GRR Bill, and her MPs challenged the blocking at Westminster. It claims the SNP leadership may ditch the GRR Bill, with an anonymous quote from “one party source” who could be anyone. That is a fight the devolution settlement cannot afford to lose. However it mentions in passing other possible reasons for her resignation, such as the police investigation into £600,000 of donations to the SNP being “missing”.
The Herald had “New leader should ‘correct policies’ of Nicola Sturgeon era”, without a single mention of trans. Unfortunately it also had Alison Rowat, whose second suggestion for the reason Sturgeon resigned was “the gender recognition reform fiasco”. What fiasco would that be, then? The 86-39 final vote on Stage 3? Or the Tories, trying to distract from their economic mismanagement by picking a fight with Scotland?
The Edinburgh Evening News had Labour MP for Edinburgh South Ian Murray write about her record in government, (he was against it) with no mention of trans.
The Times had Iain Martin arguing that independence (which is the SNP raison d’être) would be a disaster. As an aside he referred to her “appalling handling of the transgender issue”- again- how? Was it the three consultations over more than five years? It also had speculation that the Bill might fall because the First Minister should decide to sue Westminster, there might not be a new one by 17 April which is the deadline for judicial review, and Sturgeon should not so bind her successor’s hands. Utter drivel.
Then it had an article quoting at length anti-trans campaigners celebrating. There were 396 words on tiny hate group Four Women Scotland, and, as an afterthought, 121 words on Britain’s premier LGBT charity Stonewall. 4WS would no doubt celebrate Kate Forbes as leader. How feminist of them.
The SNP cannot back down from the fight over GRR, which they will win. Meanwhile, the Scottish Greens leaders Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater would leave the coalition if the SNP backed down.
In a festival of transphobia, a strong contender for the most transphobic article was in The Scotsman. It suggested the new First Minister might just drop the GRR Bill, or negotiate with the Tories “who are busy making allies of the gender critical movement”- no. Really??
It connected the Bill to placing “transmen who are convicted sexual offenders”- I think it means one trans woman, Isla Bryson- to women’s prisons. I despair.