Vital questions to Scottish Government on GRA reform

After our online meeting with Shona Robison, the minister responsible for GRA reform in Scotland, we sent a follow-up email asking for further clarification on several questions on February 3. We await a response…

Dear Cabinet Secretary

We thank you again for giving us your time for an online meeting on January 20. You promised to follow up on specific questions and any other issues that have arisen from the meeting, and we take you up on your offer here.

In its statement last week, the Equality & Human Rights Commission echoed the same concerns that our group did in our conversation:

  • On changing criteria for obtaining a GRC with less safeguarding;
  • On the legal protection of women and the effects of widening the category of women on our protections and services;
  • On the effects of gender self-ID on the criminal justice system and on sport.

Will you publicly pledge to take into account the EHRC’s request for more careful consideration of this particular style of GRA reform before proceeding with the legislation in its current form?

V* spoke with authority about the impact of trans-inclusion policies in the VAWG sector from her long experience working there.

She said: “I have been approached by a number of women who are now self-excluding from services that are meant to be for them,  specifically rape crisis and domestic abuse services. We would like to know how ministers plan to uphold the protected characteristic of sex in the Equality Act if sex cannot be defined in real terms because how can females trust sex-specific services if these services deny sex-specific needs exist? How will the EA be upheld if any man who says he’s a woman can access them or be employed to deliver them?”

You continue to insist GRA reform will have no impact on anything protected by the Equality Act, but we remain unconvinced because we have seen the evidence that most single-sex services are now, in fact, mixed-sex services as organisations – funded by the Scottish Government – are required to demonstrate their services are trans-inclusive or miss out on funding.

Will you commit to providing clear guidance to service providers on how to invoke single-sex exemptions for both staff and services so women will no longer self-exclude from services designed for them?

We want to place on record our dissatisfaction with your response that policy decisions are a matter for individual organisations – you told us “I don’t run Scottish Women’s Aid.” We consider this to be little more than passing the buck, particularly when one considers how financially reliant these organisations are on the Scottish Government.

We ask for a public acknowledgement of the Scottish Government’s responsibility for a) the implementation of a policy of self-id informally across publicly funded organisations and public bodies; b) its lack of formal guidance on the Equality Act.

K spoke about her particular area of concern, which is intimate care, whether provided at home or in a care or hospital setting. She told you: “I have a very personal question, but we know from talking to people in the street it’s something lots of people are worried about. My elderly aunt has dementia and is in a care home. She needs intimate care. Both she and her family expect that to be undertaken by a woman. The reforms to the GRA will allow any man to become legally female by signing a declaration. How will you ensure that the safety, dignity and privacy of my aunt will be the primary concern and not the feelings of a male care worker who’s declared himself a woman?”

You acknowledged concerns over an individual’s ability to ensure they could ask for and receive single-sex care are valid but suggested responsibility for ensuring risk assessments will lie with healthcare providers.

Can you assure K and other women with the same valid concerns about intimate care that you will commit to allaying their fears by ensuring genuine safeguarding remains in place, that risk assessments are robust and that single-sex request are fulfilled?

M told you about a specific question raised by a member of the public. She said: “At a street stall in Ayr, a mother of a 13-year-old girl told me her daughter had lost her place as a goalkeeper on a girls’ football team to a boy. That wee girl is now sitting at home wondering why adults are telling her to deny the reality of what she can see – a boy has taken her place in the team.”

She also quoted statistics from sportscotland, the Scottish Government’s national agency, on girls’ participation in sport and what it means for the long-term fitness of both males and females when they are physically active. She asked you what will be done to protect all-female sports when anyone can simply declare themselves the opposite sex.

You gave us a similar response to that for single-sex services in the VAWG sector, insisting decisions on inclusion policies are a matter for sport governing bodies. However, with regard to sport specifically, the Scottish Government funds grassroots and community sports through sportscotland, which is currently inviting applications for funding from its Sports Facilities Fund. Its website states: We will prioritise projects where there is a commitment to the following: equalities & inclusion.

As with the funding available for organisations in the VAWG sector, can you tell M and other concerned citizens if this wording means groups or organisations applying for sportscotland funding are unable to maintain single-sex sports or changing facilities? Can you confirm if this policy on equalities and inclusion also applies to other areas of sport funding? And can you provide any reassurance to sport governing bodies, community groups and organisations that they can invoke the Equality Act and provide single-sex sporting opportunities and facilities for females, using the EqA definition of women and girls?

Again, we thank you for your time and we look forward to a detailed response to the points raised here and at the personal meeting.

*Names anonymised.

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