UK equalities minister Kemi Badenoch has expressed concerns about controversial gender recognition reforms in Scotland in a letter to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
Ms Badenoch wrote the letter to Ms Sturgeon this week, as the final vote on the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill was slated for the week before Christmas.
According to The Times newspaper, Ms Badenoch said she was “concerned” by the Bill, adding it would create “divergence” between Scotland and the rest of the UK.
“Individuals contemplating the very serious step of changing their legal sex need clarity on the process that they must undertake and I am concerned about the impact [of] having divergent regimes in the different parts of the UK,” the minister wrote.
The change in legislation would mean people applying for a gender recognition certificate would no longer need a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria.
The Bill also drops the minimum age for applications from 18 to 16 and cuts the level of time needed to live in one’s acquired gender from two years to three months with a further three-month reflection period.
Concerns have been raised, including by the United Nations special rapporteur for violence against women and girls, Reem Alsalem, the changes could impact on the safety of women and girls. Ms Sturgeon has strenuously denied the safety claims.
Ms Badenoch, who was appointed to Cabinet by former prime minister Liz Truss and retained by Rishi Sunak, added: “I have heard from a number of women who’ve highlighted their concerns about these proposals and the implications for wider society.”
The minister also said it was “not possible” for the Bill to be “fully contained” in Scotland, with likely impacts felt in other parts of the UK.
The BBC reported on Thursday the UK Government could refuse to recognise gender recognition certificates issued in Scotland and the legislation could end up before the UK Supreme Court.
But a spokeswoman for the UK Government stressed no decisions had yet been taken on potential action.
“As the UN special rapporteur has set out, the Scottish Government’s proposals currently raise a number of clear concerns,” the spokeswoman said.
“In order to understand the potential impact of the Bill on the rights of people across the United Kingdom, we will continue to monitor its progress. We have made no decision on any potential action at this time.”
A No. 10 spokesman backed the Government’s earlier statement, stressing no decision had yet been made on the response to the Bill.
A spokesman for the Scottish Government said social justice Secretary Shona Robison would be happy to meet with Ms Badenoch to discuss the Bill. “The UK Government’s minister for women and equalities has responded to a letter sent by the Scottish Government in October setting out relevant policy considerations for the UK Government, undertaking to work constructively on cross-border issues, and offering to meet. Ms Robison will be happy to meet with Ms Badenoch.”