Nicola Sturgeon branded ‘disgrace’ after heckling MSP over gender reforms

NICOLA Sturgeon has been accused of trying to shut down debate about controversial gender reforms after telling an MSP who raised them he should be ashamed of himself.

Speaking about her new Gender Recognition Reform Bill on Tuesday, Ms Sturgeon said she understood that “some have sincerely held concerns about” the proposed legislation.

However when Tory Murdo Fraser mentioned a protest by hundreds of women concerned about the “contentious” and “divisive” plan, Ms Sturgeon verbally attacked him for it. 

The First Minister, who recently urged MSPs to “make an effort to disagree more civilly”, shouted “Shame on you!” across the Holyrood chamber.

Mr Fraser said the comment was “a disgrace” and accused Ms Sturgeon of dismissing the concerns of the women protesters involved.

It was sign of the increasing tensions at Holyrood over the legislation, which is intended to simplify the process of legally changing one’s gender through self-identification.

Obtaining a gender recognition certificate currently requires a medical diagnosis and takes at least two years. 

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon tries to calm fears over gender recognition reforms

The new law would remove the medical element and shorten the time to six months, relying on self-declaration in front of a notary public or a justice of the peace instead.

Opponents fear the move will see men who identify as women using single-sex spaces and services, such as refugees, some of whom may abuse the system to prey on women.

Last week around 400 people attended a Women’s Rights demo outside parliament at which the crowd booed mentions of Ms Sturgeon and the Greens, who also back the new law.

Mr Fraser was one of several Tory MSPs who attended the protest organised by For Women Scotland, which was branded “transphobic” and bigoted by counter-protesters.

Speaking in the second day of a debate about the SNP-Green Government’s legislative programme yesterday, Mr Fraser said: “Instead of proposals that will take Scotland forward and unite us, we see a set of proposals that will divide us. 

“We see a proposed bill to reform the Gender Recognition Act 2004, which is so contentious that last week there was one of the largest-ever demonstrations outside the Scottish Parliament, with hundreds of women from -”

READ MORE: Sturgeon booed by Holyrood demo for ‘ignoring women’s rights’

At which, Ms Sturgeon, who was sitting in the front bench seat nearest the Tory group shouted “Shame on you” at him.

Mr Fraser responded: “The First Minister is saying that she dismisses the concerns of hundreds of women from across Scotland who came to the Parliament to express their concerns.  She is saying, ‘Shame on them’. What a disgrace. 

“The First Minister is not listening to the concerns of those women. 

“We await the detail of the Bill, but the Scottish Conservatives are absolutely clear that women’s rights must be protected in the context of GRA [Gender Recognition Act] reform; I know that those concerns are shared by many SNP MSPs.”

Ms Sturgeon’s comment provoked a strong reaction on social media.

After Mr Fraser tweeted about it and questioned if Ms Sturgeon was interested in “respectful debate”, the Dean of the Faculty of Advocates, Roddy Dunlop QC, said respectful debate was “distinctly lacking” on the issue. 

For Women Scotland said the incident showed Ms Sturgeon “contempt” for women who disagreed with her was “ever more apparent” and thanked Mr Fraser.

It added later: “She owes MSPs and ordinary women an apology and she needs to start to engage with us instead of ridiculing and dismissing us.”

Susan Dalgety, a former special adviser to Labour First Minister Jack McConnell, tweeted: “Scotland. Where the “feminist to her fingertips” First Minister heckles a senior politician for attending a women’s rally. Surreal.”

James Gillies of the Free to Disagree group said Ms Sturgeon’s reaction was “Orwellian”.

He said: “The Scottish Government’s ‘newspeak’ doesn’t include criticism of GRA reform. MSPs and groups like @ForwomenScot who express valid concerns are ‘unperson’. The idea is simple: paint critics as ‘haters’ and you don’t have to engage with their arguments.”

Earlier this week, SNP Finance Secretary Kate Forbes told STV: “My hope would be that nobody’s voice is silenced in this debate.”

SNP MP Joanna Cherry QC said Ms Forbes was “quite right”.

Last week Ms Sturgeon said she was “deeply offended” after Tory MSP Tess White heckled her during FMQs.

 

The Herald Scotland

The Herald Scotland

The Herald is a Scottish broadsheet newspaper founded in 1783. The Herald is the longest running national newspaper in the world and is the eighth oldest daily paper in the world. The title was simplified from The Glasgow Herald in 1992