Nicola Sturgeon urges Tories not to conflate GRR bill with prison debate
NICOLA Sturgeon warned the Scottish Tories not to conflate the Gender Recognition Reform (GRR) Bill with the debate over Isla Bryson as the First Minister faced further questions over the trans prisoner’s gender.
After the First Minister set out that Bryson – previously known as Adam Graham – would not be housed in the all-female Cornton Vale prison last week, Douglas Ross continued to press her on whether she considered Bryson to be a woman.
Bryson was convicted of two rapes between 2016 and 2019 at Glasgow’s High Court last month. The crimes were committed while Bryson was a man.
During FMQs Ross suggested criminals like Bryson would be able to access women’s spaces when they get out of prison because “under current government policy she is considered a women”.
READ MORE: Transgender prisoners: What are the facts in UK jails?
But Sturgeon urged Ross not to conflate the GRR legislation passed by the Scottish Parliament – and subsequently blocked by the UK Government - with the prison issue, warning the chamber that politicians should not inadvertently undermine the rights of the majority of trans people.
She told the chamber: “I think it is important we remember that transwomen are a very tiny proportion of society and the overwhelming number of them never commit any offences. It is important we don’t inadvertently undermine the rights of the majority of trans people in our country.
“Rapists should be dealt with as rapists.
“In terms of access to single sex spaces, it is also the case that under the current Equality Act, there are provisions to exclude trans women from single sex spaces and those exemptions can be applied whether or not the transgender woman has a GRC.”
Sturgeon added accusations that Bryson is not truly transgender are “almost certainly the case".
Justice Secretary Keith Brown made a statement at the weekend that no transgender prisoner with a history of violence against women would be accomodated in a women's prison pending an urgent review of all transgender inmates.
Sturgeon added her government had nothing to apologise for in its handling of the case.
Bryson has now been moved to HMP Edinburgh.
Ross accused the FM of giving rapists and "easy way out" by allowing them to identify as transgender.
READ MORE: Stephen Flynn: UK anti-strike bill a 'blatant attack' on Scottish devolution
She stated that the only important factor was that the individual had been convicted of rape and that should be the only one considered in terms of where the prisoner is kept.
Prior to Brown's statement, it also emerged at the weekend that Tiffany Scott, who stalked a 13-year-old girl while known as Andrew Burns, had applied to be moved into the female prison estate, with the Daily Record reporting the transfer had been approved and was likely to happen later this year.
Elsewhere during FMQs Labour leader Anas Sarwar pressed Sturgeon on the budget for local government.
He held a leaked document from COSLA in his hand as he laid out the organisation's warning of over 7000 potential job losses in councils due to current financial pressures.
READ MORE: Ex-Brexit Party candidate in fight against 'education indoctrination'
He quoted two SNP councillors who had said local authorities were having to consider cutting staff or vital services.
Sarwar said: "For the past 15 years, this government has short changed local councils. It didn’t matter whether the Scottish Government budget went up or down, local governments had their budget cut and are now at financial breaking point.
"The public are being asked to foot the bill for public services that are getting worse week by week because this government underfunded councils for 15 years.
"Now a leaked COSLA document reveals potential job losses on a massive scale. They estimate over 7000 jobs will be lost.
"After 15 years, things have got so bad that many of Nicola Sturgeon's colleague are no longer willingly to blindly follow the orders. Her councillors have lost faith in her decisions. Will they [the Scottish Government] finally stand up for local communities?"
Sturgeon urged Sarwar to highlight where the increased cash he is proposing for local government should come from ahead of the Stage 1 budget debate.
She said to Sarwar: "This time every year we hear these kind of questions as councils look at options put before them. In the budget for the financial year about to start, we are proposing an increase in the resources available to local government of over £570m. That’s a real terms increase of £160m.
"If there is a proposition to give more money to local government, by all means come and make that suggestion, but tell us where in the budget we should take that money from. That’s the only grown-up and mature way to come to budget deliberations."