Community News

Scottish Trans joins legal challenge to protect gender equality on public authority boards

Graham Robson December 11, 2020

Scottish Trans (ST), part of the LGBTQ+ human rights charity Equality Network, has been given permission to intervene in a legal case which is seeking to throw out legislation passed two years ago, ensuring greater involvement of women in public life in Scotland. 

The Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) Act 2018, guarantees women 50% of places on public boards, and was welcomed by all parties as step towards equality. 

While ST say the Act is working well, a group called For Women Scotland (FWS) wants it to be scrapped, because they object to the fact it allows trans women to be included in that 50%. Trans women make up an estimated 0.2% of the Scottish population. According to FWS’ crowdfunding page, it has raised over £60,000 to bring the challenge against Holyrood in Scotland’s supreme civil court. ST is also paying for all fees related to the case out of fundraising donations. To donate, CLICK HERE

The case is due to be heard by the Court of Session on January 7, 2021. 

Senior judges have now granted ST permission to act as third-party ‘interveners’, which means they can submit evidence to the court about why they believe changing the legislation would be an unnecessary setback to trans equality and inclusion.  

Vic Valentine, ST manager, said: “Trans people deserve the same dignity and privacy as everyone else. Why should we have to reveal intimate details about our history and private life, before we can, say, sit on the board for the Accounts Commission or the National Library? This misguided case will have a chilling effect on the willingness of trans people to take part in public life. It’s telling us that we are not welcome or wanted.  

This law was passed in 2018, and has been working well, encouraging more women into public life. If this case succeeds and the requirement for 50% of board members to be women is thrown out, it will set back the rights of all women to take part in public life in Scotland – not just trans women. We believe women should have their voices heard by public bodies, and trans women should not be singled out to be excluded.” 

ST is represented pro bono by the Scottish Just Law Centre, part of the human rights legal charity JustRight Scotland; Dorothy Bain QC is instructed as advocate. . 

Jen Ang, director at JustRight Scotland added: “We are supporting Scottish Trans to intervene in this case as part of our work to ensure that people who are affected by potential changes to the law have the chance to exercise their legal rights, including having a fair opportunity to explain to the judge how that change might impact them.

“As an organisation, we aim to help people find ways of participating in legal processes where the outcome of a court decision directly affects them and those they support.