The co-leader of the Scottish Greens has been slammed for comparing those who uphold the reality of biological sex to racists.
Earlier this year, the Scottish Government tabled legislation that would make it much easier for Scots to change their legal sex, by allowing them to self-identify, and also by reducing the minimum age to just 16.
Campaigners have criticised the Bill, which they say would put women and girls at risk, but in an interview with The Herald on Sunday, Lorna Slater said people who disagree with the proposals should not be permitted to air their views.
Slater called for groups with concerns over the Bill to be censored, likening them to climate change deniers, and said allowing balance in media debates over radical gender ideology and its impact upon society – women and girls in particular – was wrong.
She claimed: “We wouldn’t put balance on the question of racism or antisemitism, but we allow this fictional notion of balance when it comes to anti-trans. The whole thing is disgusting.”
She also accused women’s campaigners of being funded by “certain right-wing American groups”, a claim that was immediately discredited by ex-Labour Advisor Susan Dalgety as having “no basis”. Dalgety added that Slater had made the inaccurate claim “in a deliberate effort to defame legitimate campaigners”.
Breach of ministerial code
At least three official complaints have been sent to Nicola Sturgeon over Slater’s remarks, with some alleging that she contravened the ministerial code by failing “to treat others with consideration and respect”.
The code also states: “Harassing, bullying or other inappropriate or discriminating behaviour, wherever it takes place, is not consistent with the Ministerial Code and will not be tolerated.”
In a statement co-signed by For Women Scotland, Fair Play for Women, Women and Girls in Scotland, and Woman’s Place UK, the groups said they were “deeply dismayed” by Slater’s comments.
‘Outrageous and inflammatory’
Meghan Gallacher MSP, the Scottish Conservative spokesperson for gender reform, wrote to Ms Sturgeon asking her to “dissociate herself and her government from Lorna Slater’s outrageous and inflammatory comments”.
She said changes to gender recognition legislation “is an extremely sensitive issue that evokes strong passions on both sides of the debate. That’s why it’s imperative that Scottish Government ministers discuss it in a measured, tolerant way.
“For Lorna Slater to equate those who have legitimate concerns over the impact of this legislation on women’s rights and safety with racists is ignorant and highly offensive. And to suggest that their views should not be given a platform is a dangerous, indefensible attempt to deny free speech.”
She added: “These narrow-minded, intolerant comments are unacceptable from a government minister”, and said Ms Sturgeon needed to “reassure concerned women that their misgivings about this legislation will be afforded the respect they deserve in the legislative process”.
In her letter to the First Minister, former MSP Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh said: “As a woman of colour, who has been subjected to racism throughout my entire life, I find it abhorrent that Ms Slater believes those of us that do not support your legislative agenda, and wish to defend the sex-based rights of women, are ourselves somehow akin to racists or anti-Semites.”
Writing in the Times, columnist Alex Massie added: “The arrogance is breathtaking, and all the more so given that it is, at least in part, in thrall to pieties that are demonstrably untrue. You cannot change your biological sex.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson defended Ms Slater, saying: “There is broad consensus that transphobia should have no place in modern Scotland.
“Ms Slater was explicitly and solely referring to transphobes when she said some people were trying to portray trans women as if they were all ‘inherently dangerous’ and sought to make the point that people who espouse such views should not be given a platform to do so.”
Last month, a woman who underwent drastic surgery in an attempt to live as a man said she expects the NHS will face legal action from detransitioners in the future.
Sinéad Watson, 31, started identifying as a man from the age of 20 – taking the name Sean and wearing a breast-binder. However, when this did not help, she began to take testosterone and underwent several life-changing operations.
Speaking at a meeting hosted by pro-women campaign groups For Women Scotland and the LGB Alliance, she said: “We cannot let this keep happening to our daughters. It will be on the shoulders of detransitioners in the future to pursue lawsuits if they want to. So far I don’t know any groups that are organising that. I absolutely foresee it.”