Feminists who fear a sweeping overhaul of transgender laws in Scotland will threaten their rights and safety have been likened to racists and anti-Semites by a cabinet minister in Nicola Sturgeon’s government.
Lorna Slater, who won a ministerial post last year as part of the SNP’s coalition pact with the Greens, has been accused of making ‘grossly offensive’ remarks when she appeared to demand that the media censor the criticism of the Scottish government’s plans.
In remarks on the transgender rights debate published on Sunday, she said the BBC had “only recently stopped putting climate deniers on because they needed a balance”.
She added: “We wouldn’t put a balance on the issue of racism or anti-Semitism, but we allow this fictional notion of balance when it comes to anti-trans [views]. The whole thing is disgusting. »
In another claim that has enraged grassroots groups who have rallied to fight plans to allow Scots to change their legal gender simply by making a statement, Ms Slater claimed her opponents were secretly funded by “certain American groups of right”.
Asked to provide evidence or specify which groups Ms Slater was referring to, the Scottish Government did not.
“The Political Wrecking Ball”
Susan Smith, director of campaign group For Women Scotland, said the “deliberately inflammatory” comments amounted to an open call for “censorship and the removal of political opponents” from a government minister.
“It’s ironic that she compares women’s rights activists to anti-Semites, racists and climate change deniers, when some might think her intemperate, inflammatory and factless speech bears all the hallmarks of hardline bigotry as well as a denial of the fundamental principles of scientific biology,” she said.
“Such intimidation should be of concern to any parliamentarian who wants an open and thorough review of legislation. If Ms Slater wishes to continue to act as a political wrecking ball, she should resign from her post.
The SNP/Green Government of Holyrood recently released legislation that would allow anyone aged 16 or over born or resident in Scotland to change their legal gender by self-identification, removing the need for a medical diagnosis or doctor’s approval.
Some feminists believe the changes are susceptible to abuse by male sexual predators who might make a statement to demand access to female-only spaces such as locker rooms, prisons or hospital wards.
Critics also fear they will erode women’s gender-based rights in areas such as sport and work.
The claims are belied by supporters of the legislation who say it will simply simplify an existing process for obtaining a gender recognition certificate and grant no new rights to trans people.
Ms Slater’s comments, to the Herald on Sunday, came after Shona Robison, the SNP minister leading the legislation through Holyrood, called for a ‘respectful’ debate without ‘offensive or abusive’ comments from either side.
However, Ms Slater, who is entitled to a £98,000 salary in her role as biodiversity minister, said a perceived backlash against the trans community was ‘hideous’ and she feared for the safety of trans women running as green candidates for the board. elections.
“These gentle, hardworking women are portrayed as if they are inherently dangerous,” she said. “That couldn’t be further from the truth.”
Only Scottish Conservatives officially oppose reforms at Holyrood, although some SNP and Labor politicians, including Ms Sturgeon’s finance minister, have concerns.
Meghan Gallacher, the Conservatives’ Scottish spokeswoman on gender reform, said Ms Slater’s remarks were “deeply inflammatory” and would only “raise tension on a difficult and sensitive issue”.
“It is outrageous and grossly offensive for Lorna Slater to compare women with legitimate concerns about their safety and rights with racists,” she said.
“The same goes for his absurd suggestion that those with doubts shouldn’t have a platform to air their concerns.”
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: “The aim of this government is to ensure that trans people in Scotland enjoy equality and feel safe and accepted for who they are.
“We appreciate the range of strong opinions on gender recognition law and have always been keen to seek consensus where possible and work to support respectful debate.
“We are committed to making changes to the Gender Recognition Act 2004 to improve and simplify the process for a trans person to gain legal recognition.”