Green Minister Patrick Harvie accuses SNP of allowing transphobia to ‘fester’ in the party

GREEN minister Patrick Harvie has accused his SNP partners in government of failing to tackle transphobia by “a significant number of high-profile people” in the party.

Mr Harvie said the issue should have led to disciplinary action by the SNP, but instead it had been “allowed to fester” and people got away with “promoting transphobia”.

He said some of the online comments involved had been “appalling”.

Mr Harvie was speaking in the wake of his fellow Green minister, Lorna Slater, comparing critics of the Scottish Government’s gender reforms to racists and anti-Semites.

The Scottish Government has introduced a Bill at Holyrood to quicken and simplify the process for a trans person to obtain legal recognition of their acquired gender.

The law currently requires a medical diagnosis and a process lasting two years.

Under the Scottish Government’s plans, the medical diagnosis element would be scrapped, with people able to self-identify as their acquired gender instead.

The timetable would also be compressed to six months, and the age threshold for applying for a gender recognition certificate lowered from 18 to 16.

Critics warn the moves could infringe sex-based women’s rights and make the system easier for sexual predators to exploit.

The issue has created splits within the SNP, with MP Joanna Cherry QC and finance secretary Kate Forbes among those expressing their discomfort with possible changes.

On BBC Radio Scotland, Mr Harvie said: “Obviously it’s possible to express concern or uncertainty or want to debate the detail of how we get this legislation right without being transphobic. Of course it is.

“We want to have that debate in a respectful way which is free of transphobia.

“I hope that all political parties will try to [tackle transphobia] more successfully in the future.”

Asked about differences within the party the Greens share power with at Holyrood, Mr Harvie criticized the SNP’s record.

He said: “I think it’s true that there is still a significant number of high-profile people within the SNP who have been allowed to get away with promoting transphobia.

“Some of the comments that I’ve seen online have been appalling.

“All political parties have difficult processes when they try to reform their internal disciplinary processes – I can recognize that, it’s not always easy for any political party to deal with those kind of things – but it has been allowed to fester.”

However he did not name those within the SNP he was referring to.

He added: “I think now we’re at a point where that’s a lot less of a problem now than it was a few years ago and it is pretty clear there is an overwhelming majority within the Scottish Parliament to proceed with this legislation, to do it in a calm and measured way, to answer questions and concerns that people have because those answers do exist and have been gone into thoroughly.”

Mr Harvie went on to say that if there was to be a “respectful debate” around the Bill, that discussion must be “free of transphobic prejudice”.

The Glasgow MSP concluded: “We’ll move on, and we’ll pass this legislation as other countries have and the sky will not fall in.”

Joanna Cherry QC, MP for Edinburgh South West and Deputy Chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights at Westminster, said: “In the past week both Lorna Slater and Patrick Harvie have displayed an extraordinary insouciance towards human rights and equality law by seeking to brand women who question legislative proposals based on gender identity theory as transphobic and akin to ‘racists’ and ‘anti-Semites’. Ms Slater wants us banned from the airwaves and Mr Harvie wants us disciplined by our political parties.

“Both of these politicians need to go off and acquaint themselves with Articles 9 and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights which protect freedom of belief and freedom of speech in this country.

“They. could also do with reading and understanding the Equality Act and the decision of the Employment Appeal Tribunal in case of Maya Forstater v CGD Europe which established that discrimination, harassment, and victimization against persons of gender critical belief is unlawful under the Equality Act .

“While this was an employment law case the prohibition of this sort of discrimination applies to membership organisations, including political parties, in respect of their members.

“The Green Party of England and Wales is currently being sued by a former leadership candidate for such discrimination.

“No doubt this is why sensible political parties in Scotland are not pursuing complaints against women merely for holding and expressing such views in the way that Mr Harvie seems to want.

“He and Ms Slater would do well also to take a look at the Public Sector Equality Duty which obliges those in government to have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations between different protected characteristics.”

An SNP spokesperson said: “The SNP is proud to be taking forward legislation to improve the lives of trans and non-binary people.”

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