Originally published 17 January 2023
By Paul Moorhouse
For the second time in two months, the Westminster Tory government has used the powers of the British state to ride roughshod over the Scottish Parliament. The Supreme Court ruling in November, that the Holyrood legislature had no power to call a referendum on independence, demonstrated that the United Kingdom is not a voluntary association of nations but a coercive and increasingly abusive union, forced on Scottish workers in the interests of big business.
This has been followed by the decision this week by the Scottish Secretary Alister Jack, invoking Section 35 of the Scotland Act 1998 to deny the ‘royal assent’ needed to turn the Gender Recognition Reform Bill into law. The Bill was passed by the overwhelming majority of Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) in the face of extensive filibustering by Tory MSPs. Jack’s actions are a further insult to Scottish voters.
Moreover, in their determination to “put another boot into” Scotland’s democratic rights, Jack, Rishi Sunak, the Home Secretary Suella Braverman, and (In)Equality Secretary Kemi Badenoch are trampling on the bodies, rights, and even the lives of Scotland’s trans community.
No trust in SNP to resist attacks
By overturning a law passed after years of campaigning and pressure in the face of foot-dragging on the part of the Scottish National Party (SNP) government and ‘liberal’ establishment, the Tories are opening a new front in the worldwide ‘culture war’ being waged by the far-right and the religious establishment on the rights of trans people and other oppressed groups, especially women, queer people and people of colour.
No trust can be placed in the SNP to resist these attacks. The First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, rather than defying the undemocratic Supreme Court ruling and mobilising popular resistance to the Tories, invited Sunak to dinner in Inverness, signing a deal with the Westminster Government to establish two ‘free ports’ in Scotland, where workers’ jobs, rights, and environmental protections will be sold to the highest bidders from the world’s markets. Sturgeon instead merely lamely offered to turn the next UK general election into a ‘de-facto referendum’ on independence (a plan she is now threatening to kick further down the road to the 2026 Holyrood elections!)
Similarly, the Scottish Government should simply defy the Tories and implement the democratic mandate it has to establish a safe and fair gender recognition scheme. Instead, Sturgeon seems likely to run to the very Supreme Court which only weeks ago backed up Wesminter’s contemptuous dismissal of democratic rights in Scotland.
Workers’ struggle needed to wipe out oppression
The only force with the power to resist this Tory assault on Scottish workers’ rights, and build the unity which the culture wars are designed to cut across. is the working class of Scotland, linked in solidarity with workers in England, Wales and Ireland. In order to do this we desperately need a mass party of class struggle capable of mobilising the combativity and unity of the strike movement over the past few months, and to step forward in the struggle of all the oppressed and for democratic rights.
Socialist Alternative calls for a mass movement to defeat this undemocratic and oppressive attack. Defend the Gender Recognition Reform Bill and extend its gains to England, Wales and Northern Ireland now!