I have had two enquiries asking for my view on a pledge circulating, and given the wider interest in my view, I am happy to reply publicly.
Thank you for getting in touch. I have not signed the “SNP Women's Pledge”, which is an unregulated online petition. I am wary of signing any petition with SNP in the title that is not actually an SNP project, particularly one where there is no way of ensuring that anyone signing is a real person, and where, according to the Herald, signatories include "Nicola Sturgeony".I am fully in favour of protecting and defending women's rights. For example, I supported the change.org petition on ratification of the Istanbul Convention on preventing violence against women and domestic violence. The Convention mandates protection from all forms of violence against women, including domestic and sexual violence, stalking, harassment, forced marriage, female genital mutilation and forced sterilisation. In the same way as SNP MPs were at the forefront of driving this through Westminster, I have been active in promoting action across all EU states to protect the rights of hundreds of millions of women.
Just as I support the rights of women, I support the rights of LGBT individuals, and do not believe these rights are mutually exclusive. You will be aware of the ongoing reform of the Gender Recognition Act at Holyrood, and while this is not a matter I as an MEP, or indeed MP should I win in Stirling, have any competence over, I support SNP policy and am confident a respectful solution can be found based on international best practice and mutual respect.
The following statement from our Minister Shirley-Anne Somerville on the Gender Recognition Act notes the following:
"One particular area of concern that has been raised about gender recognition reform - both during and since the consultation - is the impact it will have on the provision and protection of single sex or women only spaces and services.
“Presiding Officer, it is vital to be clear on this important point.
“The Equality Act already allows trans people to be excluded, in some circumstances, from single sex services where that is proportionate and justifiable, including where a trans person has legal recognition. The Government’s proposals to reform the Act will not affect that position."
Single sex services exist for a reason, and maintaining them will not negate the rights of trans individuals. Both of these points are very important yet appear to have been overshadowed. Returning to Shirley-Anne's statement, many of the concerns that have led to people to sign the Pledge are about protecting women from harm:
"Of course, at their core, these concerns are not about trans women. Rather they are about men who seek to abuse women.
“The fear is that some men will misuse trans equality to access women and do us harm. I understand that. I understand that predatory men will always seek to find ways to harm women.
“That’s not a new problem in Scottish or global society – nor is it a problem created by, or the fault of, trans people.
“This government has a duty to address the concern that reforming the process for gender recognition will increase the risks women face from men.
“This is something I have sought to do already and will continue to do as we seek to build confidence that achieving equality and dignity for trans men and women is possible without diminishing the rights of anyone else."
Thank you again for giving me the opportunity to address this issue, and I hope this answers your question.