Leader - Lesson learned: Gender fears are valid after all

It is fair to say the Scottish Government’s position on the housing of transgender prisoners has moved considerably over the course of the past few days.

On Wednesday, Justice Secretary Keith Brown responded to concerns over the prospect of double rapist Isla Bryson being jailed at Cornton Vale women’s prison by saying he trusted the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) to come to the right decision.

The following day, amid growing fears Bryson could be incarcerated alongside vulnerable women, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon intervened by telling MSPs the rapist would be housed in a men’s prison.

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It then emerged a second prisoner, Tiffany Scott, who stalked a 13-year-old girl while known as Andrew Burns, had requested a transfer to a women’s prison. The request had reportedly been rubber-stamped for approval.

Isla Bryson, 31, formerly known as Adam Graham, raped two womenIsla Bryson, 31, formerly known as Adam Graham, raped two women
Isla Bryson, 31, formerly known as Adam Graham, raped two women

Yesterday, Mr Brown announced an “urgent lessons learned review” and said no transgender prisoner with a history of violence against women will be placed in the women’s prison estate.

In addition, no newly convicted or remanded transgender prisoner with a history of violence towards women will be placed in the female estate.

The measures will be in place until the SPS completes a review of its management of trans prisoners.

These measures are of course welcome. But the Scottish Government can have no excuse for being unprepared for cases such as Bryson and Scott.

In September 2021, Ms Sturgeon dismissed concerns over predatory men gaining access to women-only spaces as “not valid” in relation to the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill.

On Friday, the First Minister said: “There are people who have opposed this bill that cloak themselves in women’s rights to make it acceptable but, just as they’re transphobic, you’ll also find that they’re deeply misogynistic, often homophobic, possibly some of them racist as well.”

As these cases show, the concerns over predatory males gaining access to female-only spaces such as prisons are perfectly valid.

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The Scotsman argued last year for a pause in the legislation to try to resolve these concerns. They must now be addressed as a matter of urgency.