The Gender Recognition Bill is hugely controversial. I know of very few people who do not have a view on it.
The vast majority of us who don’t have a reason to have a view in either direction will probably be slightly bemused by the controversy. But for those who are affected directly on both sides of the discussion, views and passions, run deep.
For the record these are my views.
As an SNP activist I am not sure why our Party needed this controversy right now but equally I respect and fully support the rights of those people who feel they are not appropriately recognised as what they want to be. Their pain must be immense. That questions my opening line in this paragraph, when people perceive unfairness a moment longer to wait seems a lifetime.
For those women who have been affected by male abuse and violence, their pain must be immense too and what they fear is as real to them in every respect.
I understand and respect but disagree with those who feel that this is something that will fundamentally affect the rights of women. I don’t make that statement lightly, I have listened to the arguments but for me I sense we are putting two very serious issues into a space there there is room only for one at a time.
Aggressive violent men do not need this as an additional means to be aggressive and violent.
We need cultural and behavioural change in men and we need the legislation and appropriate police action to back up women. While respecting the exemplary actions of individuals, in this respect the Police, as an institution, needs a degree of introspection that it has palpably failed to address in the past.
But then I’m not Transgender. I’m not a woman, nor do I wish to be either. So perhaps my views are irrelevant. But perhaps also a dispassionate assessment is what societal development and growth is about ?
There I leave the argument to those who are wiser and better equipped because my point today is not about the issue it is about the sovereign democratic process.
As passionate and as divisive as the process of getting to last night’s decisions has been, it is also a demonstration of Scottish Democracy at work. 150 amendments debated, voting across party lines with Tories supporting the Bill, SNP MSPs voting against it, both persuaded, by argument, debate, petitioning. In some cases too, by personal experience.
We cannot deplore the anti democratic action of Putin and China while at the same time disrespecting the democratic processes of our own country. Yet this it seems is what might happen. What some conservatives are lobbying for.
I listened this morning to a Conservative woman MSP talk about the exceptional level of debate that took place on this issue. She spoke with conviction about that and that the process had been deep, detailed and exemplary. She then said that the next step should be that the UK Government should seek to appeal and reverse the decision. Because she disagreed with it.
This for me strikes deep into the current farce that is devolution.
This is not a reserved matter. This is a matter for debate discussion and legislation at a devolved level. I’d go further, there are other issues of a social nature such as Drugs policy that need to be fully devolved. But if we operate with a form of developed democracy where the Government in Westminster reserve the right to reverse properly taken decisions in Holyrood, where does that leave us ?
Westminster are not our parents. The people of Scotland are not teenagers where parents say “ you have to take your own decisions” then wonder why there is resentment when they step in to prohibit the outcome.
Douglas Ross can say “ the vast majority of people in Scotland regardless of their Party do not want this Bill. “ But he says so on the basis on no knowledge of the reality of that statement. He is just cynically exercising the opportunity for his Party, in democratic deficit in Scotland, to exercise power by reversing a democratically taken decision here.
That has to be wrong. Yet it may happen.
When I came to Scotland, many years ago now, I came believing in the Union and in Devo -Max as an appropriate way of ensuring that democracy was properly recognised. It took me a very short time to realise that I was wrong.
If the UK Government reverses this decision it will be a travesty against the notion of devolution. It will also be a rallying call towards independence for which they seem to be the most effective flag bearers. Time and again they want to second guess Scottish devolved decision making.
The Scottish Tory approach to democratic decisions taken in a devolved Parliament that they do not like seems to be adequately summarised as:-
“ it’s not fair I’m going to Tell Daddy.”
That is not a mature approach to devolved democracy and for me it questions the value of devolution entirely and makes the case for independence that much stronger.