Letter to Richard Leonard

We sent the following email to Richard Leonard, leader of the Scottish Labour Party, on 13th August, calling for him to support Jenny Marra MSP.

Dear Mr Leonard,

We are writing to register our disgust at the bullying tactics of Labour affiliated group LGBT Labour Scotland targeted at Jenny Marra MSP.

For Women Scotland is a feminist grassroots group which campaigns to protect the rights of women and children, and in particular, women’s sex-based rights as currently enshrined in UK law. We formed initially to oppose the Scottish Government’s proposals to enable individuals to change their legal sex based on a statutory declaration (often referred to as ‘gender self-identification’ or self-ID). The Government has undertaken two consultations on these reforms in 2017 and 2019, but has paused its plans for the time being due to the pandemic.

We were delighted that UK Labour’s 2019 manifesto contained a commitment to “ensure that the single-sex-based exemptions contained in the Equality Act 2010 are understood and fully enforced in service provision”, as well as a commitment to end mixed sex wards. And we were incredibly grateful that Jenny Marra, Elaine Smith and Johann Lamont sponsored a series of events in the Scottish Parliament at the start of this year to enable debate about reform of the Gender Recognition Act and how those reforms might interact with women’s sex-based rights under the Equality Act.

Many public authorities have moved ahead of the proposed law change and introduced self-ID policies. For instance, the Scottish Prison Service’s transgender prisoner policy states that if a male prisoner identifies as a woman, there is a presumption that he would be accommodated in the female prison estate. Many NHS boards have also adopted policies based on self-ID principles.

It appears that NHS Lanarkshire have recently published a policy on supporting trans staff. We are concerned that in drawing up this policy, NHS Lanarkshire have not taken into account the impact on women. We are also concerned that it uses terminology such as ‘assigned at birth’. Women are oppressed on the basis of their sex, which is immutable and observed (not assigned) at birth. It was this point that Jenny Marra highlighted in her tweet:

LGBT Labour Scotland have responded to Ms Marra in hyperbolic terms, stating that she is sharing tweets which “promote fear and discrimination” against trans NHS staff.

They go on to claim that “a number of Labour MSPs routinely share transphobic articles, tropes and tweets”, stating that they have submitted a formal complaint to the party.

Labour has a proud history of advancing the rights of women, having passed much of the UK’s flagship anti-discrimination laws from the Equal Pay Act 1970 and Sex Discrimination Act 1975 to the Equality Act 2010.

In keeping with this tradition and through her activities in the Scottish Parliament, Jenny Marra has demonstrated her desire and commitment to enabling a thoughtful debate about balancing the needs and rights of women and the needs and rights of trans people. We greatly welcome this.

We call on you to defend Ms Marra in the face of these bullying tactics.

Yours sincerely,

Marion Calder, Trina Budge and Susan Smith
Co-Conveners, For Women Scotland