The SNP‘s Stephen Flynn has said the Gender Reform Bill is “in no way related” to the row over trans prisoners. Mr Flynn said Scotland’s blocked gender reforms and the debate over where trans women should be imprisoned are “completely detached”. The issue was thrown into the spotlight after trans woman Isla Bryson was sentenced for two rapes committed prior to her gender change.
Pending sentence, Bryson was initially sent to Cornton Vale women’s prison, before she was transferred to HMP Edinburgh.
Justice Secretary Keith Brown then announced a “pause” on the transfer of transgender prisoners with a history of violence against women to women’s prisons.
The issue arose just days after the Government used its veto to block the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill.
The legislation, passed by Holyrood in December, would have removed the requirement for trans people to have a medical diagnosis before obtaining a certificate confirming their preferred gender.
Critics of the Bill, including Conservative MSP Russell Findlay, have looked to link the proposed changes to Bryson’s case.
Mr Findlay claimed on Tuesday that prisons had been treated as a “form of testing ground for gender self-ID”.
But Mr Flynn denied that the headlines around Bryson’s imprisonment had damaged the Scottish Government’s argument for gender identification reforms, saying the two matters were in “no way related”.
He said the UK Government’s statement of reasons, the policy rationale outlining why Conservative ministers blocked the Bill from gaining royal assent earlier this month, “does not at any point mention prisons”.
Speaking to the PA news agency, Mr Flynn said: “The two, from my perspective, are not related in any way, shape, or form.
“What’s happened in relation to those cases in Scotland is completely detached from the GRR Bill, which is a positive piece of legislation to try and improve the life experiences of a small but important group of people in Scotland.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was forced to come to Holyrood earlier this week to state that no transgender prisoner with a history of violence against women would be placed in a female prison.
Mr Flynn backed Ms Sturgeon’s intervention after a “significant amount of public concern” was expressed following the convictions of Bryson and Tiffany Scott, who stalked a 13-year-old girl before transitioning, having formerly been known as Andrew Burns.
Scott reportedly requested a transfer to a women’s prison.
Mr Flynn said: “I think we need to look at the context of this.
“As I understand it, there’s about 12 trans people within Scotland’s prison service at this moment in time. So we’re talking about a very, very small number of people.
Anti-Brexit campaigner removed from BBC studio for heckling Rees-Mogg [REPORT]
Teachers’ strike will see eight out of 10 schools close tomorrow [INSIGHT]
Lord Frost outlines 12 Brexit wins as UK celebrates major milestone [REVEAL]
“There’s been understandable concerns raised about the two individuals over the course of the last week or so.
“The Scottish Prison Service obviously has a process to follow in terms of where people are housed, depending upon the risk assessment in place.
“The First Minister of Scotland has made a fair commitment in terms of a process and how that process is going to be moving forward. I think that was necessary.”
An urgent review is now taking place into the Bryson case and there is an ongoing review by the Scottish Prison Service (SPS).
The aim of the GRA is to make it easier for trans people to change their legal gender and get a gender recognition certificate (GRC), which is seen as an integral part of trans inclusion.
Westminster’s decision to block the bill from going for royal assent is the first time Section 35 has been used.
Scottish Trans has said the current requirements for applying for a Gender Recognition Certificate are overly laborious, saying: “The time, evidence, and money required, as well as the emotional toll of potentially having an application rejected, mean that many trans people do not apply – even those who have otherwise ‘completed’ every other aspect of their transition.”
It adds: “This is very frustrating for many trans men and women who find that this slow, bureaucratic process is preventing them from otherwise just getting on with their lives.
“Many trans people know they are trans a long time before they socially, medically, and legally transition, and do not make the choice to do so lightly.
“Requiring at least two years of evidence is then an excessively long and arbitrary amount of time to ensure that someone is certain they want to change their legal sex, especially as they also have to make a statutory declaration as part of the process.”