General Election 2024

Here we have a look at women’s rights and the party manifestos, covering the key pledges from the Conservatives, Labour, SNP, Lib Dems, Alba, Greens, Reform, SDP, CPB and Liberals manifestos. Some will also have independent candidates such as Eva Comrie in Alloa and Grangemouth, Sally Hughes in Perth and Kinross-shire, and David Henry in Edinburgh West who support women’s rights. There are also candidates from the main parties who are at odds with the party line on sex/gender (Joanna Cherry SNP being an obvious example), so it’s worth finding out!

While many of the manifestos mention the NHS, schools, prisons and the justice system, Scottish voters should be aware that these areas of policy are devolved, so MPs have very little influence over these areas in Scotland. With that caveat, let’s dive in!

The Scottish Conservative’s manifesto says:

Two years ago, the Scottish Conservatives were the only party to vote against the SNP’s gender reforms. We will continue to oppose any attempt to bring back Nicola Sturgeon’s Gender Recognition Reform Bill.

Biological sex is a reality. The overwhelming majority of people in this country recognise that. It is right that we have in place provisions and protections for those whose sense of self does not match their biological sex. However, we will not allow the safety and privacy of women and girls to be undermined.

Equality Act:

  • Clarify the Equality Act 2010 with primary legislation to clarify that the protected characteristic of sex in the Equality Act means biological sex.
  • Legislate so that an individual can only have one sex in the eyes of the law in the United Kingdom.
  • Protect single sex spaces in public buildings.

Schools and young people:

  • Ensure material and lessons in school are age appropriate and that parents are made aware of what their child will be taught in school. 
  • Take forward statutory guidance to stop schools from sending questionnaires to young children on sexuality and gender. 
  • Parents will have a right to know if their child wants to be treated as the opposite sex and schools will have to involve parents when it comes to decisions about their children.


  • Vulnerable young people are being put at risk in Scotland for the sake of gender ideology. While we welcome the pausing of the prescribing of puberty blockers at the Sandyford clinic, we need to go further. The Scottish Conservatives would ensure that the Cass Review is implemented in Scotland in full.
  • Reduce waiting times for conditions like endometriosis, which currently has a waiting time of 8.5 years, and polycystic ovary syndrome.
  • Deliver maternity services locally, particularly in rural areas. End the postcode lottery in maternity services.
  • Refresh the women’s health plan to take greater account of women’s health needs such as the greater risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Conversion Practices:

  • The need for more evidence in light of Cass Review in structuring a Conversion Practices approach.

Violence Against Women:

  • Introduce a law to create a domestic abuse register, similar to the sex offenders’ register giving victims the legal right to know about a partner’s past abusive behaviour.
  • Close the loophole which allows Sex Offenders to change their names.
  • New law to tackle spiking. 

There is greater detail in the UK Conservative Manifesto, but most of this is devolved. It includes:

  • Laws to tackle the “rough sex” defence
  • Laws to prevent deepfake porn
  • Longer sentences for murders by abusive partners (those who kill their domestic abusers will not face the same starting point)

Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer discussed women’s rights and the Equality Act on the BBC debate:

Scottish Labour’s manifesto says:

Women’s equality will be at the heart of UK Labour’s missions. Our Plan to Make Work Pay will transform the lives of working women, including by strengthening rights to equal pay and protections from maternity and menopause discrimination and sexual harassment. And Labour will take action to reduce the gender pay gap, building on the legacy of Barbara Castle’s Equal Pay Act.

Equality Act:

  • Modernise, simplify, and reform gender recognition law. 
  • Any legislation in Scotland must provide dignity for transgender people and be consistent with the Equality Act. 
  • Continue to support the implementation of single-sex exceptions.

Conversion Practices:

  • Full trans-inclusive ban on conversion practices, while protecting the freedom for people to explore their sexual orientation and gender identity.


  • Improve the uptake and ease of access to screening services, including the roll out of cervical screening self-sampling. All women must have access to the full range of of reproductive services.

Violence Against Women:

  • Creation of a single point of contact for rape victims and has called for a pilot scheme to give independent legal representation to victims of rape and serious sexual crimes. 
  • The right to anonymity for rape victims should be placed on a statutory basis. 
  • Embed trauma-informed practices and procedures throughout courts and justice 
  • Establish a special sexual offences court
  • The ‘not proven’ verdict should be abolished. 
  • Will not back proposals to change jury sizes and pilot juryless trials. 
  • Schools should be supported to address misogyny, with a strategy to teach young people from all ages about healthy relationships and consent. 
  • Criminalise of misogyny and include sex as an aggravator within the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act. 
  • Strengthen law on spiking.
  • Close loopholes in the law on the distribution of intimate images. 

Keir Starmer replies to Jane’s question on women’s rights. She says “We want you to say sex cannot be changed and you will protect us from men coming into our space”:

The manifesto is very light on pledges regarding women’s rights beyond a pledge to protect abortion rights and to stand up for WASPI women (something mentioned in the three previous manifestos and by Alba). They do complain that “the Tories have taken the unprecedented step of blocking legislation passed by Scotland’s Parliament – on a cross party basis – setting a dangerous, anti-democratic precedent.” This, of course, is the Gender Recognition Reform Bill, but they seem reluctant to spell that out!

They also say:

The SNP has a proud record of advancing and championing LGBTI rights in government, and we will continue to build on this, working with LGBTI communities, to make Scotland a fairer and more equal place to live. With independence we would have the full powers to improve equality in law and society, and the ability to champion LGBTI equality internationally.

We presume these full powers would include bringing back Gender Recognition Reform.

John Swinney said on Radio Scotland that “transgender women are defined as women”, and told Women’s Hour that the single-sex provisions in the Equality Act are protecting the security and the safety of women and girls (from 3:53 mins):

The First Minister also said he would protect women’s single sex spaces from all males, regardless of whether they have a gender recognition certificate. Which completely contradicts the Government’s defence of their position in the upcoming Supreme Court case that a GRC gives a man full access to women’s rights, including taking a woman’s space on a public board.

The Liberal Democrat’s manifesto says that they will uphold the Equality Act 2010. However, they also state they will “reform the gender recognition process to remove the requirement for medical reports, recognise non-binary identities in law, and ensure there are no cross border barriers to mutual acceptance”. This would involve scraping or amending the sections dealing with sex or maternity in the Equality Act, as well as amending many other laws, so they may not have thought this through!

They also say they will:

  • Respect and defend the rights of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities, including trans and non-binary people.
  • Ban all forms of conversion therapies and practices, working in partnership with the Scottish Government to achieve this.

There is an issue with this pledge:

  • Require large employers to monitor and publish data on gender, ethnicity, disability, and LGBT+ employment levels, pay gaps and progression, and publish five-year aspirational diversity targets.

There is a statutory need to record data on sex for gender pay gap monitoring but employees have no obligation to disclose details of their personal life to employers. Requiring this level of disclosure would not be lawful.

Violence Against Women:

  • Implement the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, with protections for all survivors regardless of nationality or immigration status.

They also say they will never refuse asylum to LGBT refugees fleeing violence, but there is no mention of the same for women (eg from Afghanistan or Iran).

Alex Cole-Hamilton was interviewed on Radio Scotland and answered a listener’s question on the Equality Act and non-binary:

Alba’s manifesto has a section on women and single sex spaces:

ALBA recognises and supports the Equality Act 2010, which protects those with protected characteristics from discrimination. Protected characteristics are age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation.

The ALBA Party supports efforts to strengthen clarity in the law to ensure people have the protection they need. The Equality Act protects discrimination due to “sex”, and sex is a biological fact.

The Equality Act’s single-sex exemptions recognise that single-sex accommodations are required to uphold dignity, safety, and respect in specific settings, such as some jobs and care situations. 

  • Support clarity in law – a woman is an adult human female. 
  • Support the Cass Review’s implementation immediately and in full in all areas relevant to Scotland. 
  • Support high-quality, evidence-based care for children and young people. 
  • Ensure health, education, and legislation is Cass Compliant.
  • Support an independent Scotland to have a Citizen’s Assembly on fundamental rights and protections for all, which should be enshrined in a written constitution for the people, by the people. 
  • Oppose any attempt to conflate gender identity with sex-based rights and protections in law, policy and guidance. 
  • Support single-sex spaces and sex-based rights at all levels. 

List of candidates standing in Scotland is here.

All of the Greens manifesto pledges regarding women, such as “Strengthen equal pay regulation and gender pay gap reporting” are rendered null and void by the inconvenient fact that they don’t know what a woman is, but if one exists, it’s probably got a penis. Although, rather transphobically, they do think that it’s women who get abortions. They also pledge to extend the scope of the Equality Act by adding menstruation, perimenopause and menopause to the list of protected characteristics, claiming this will benefit women who face workplace discrimination (so, again, they do realise these only affect women!).

They pledge to cancel the “undemocratic block on Scotland’s gender recognition reforms” and to resist “changes to the equality act proposed by the current UK Tory government water down long-held protections for trans people by redefining sex as ‘biological sex’”. They also want to remove section 35 from the Scotland Act.

ISP are standing two candidates: Colette Walker in East Renfrewshire and John Hannah in Bathgate and Linlithgow. The party supports women’s sex-based rights but is standing on a policy of abstention from Westminster. Their manifesto is due to be published shortly.

Reform’s manifesto mentions “women” three times, all in relation to the armed forces.

Equality Act:

They say they will “replace the 2010 Equalities [sic] Act as it “requires discrimination in the name of ‘positive action’.”

Of course, positive action to protect women is precisely why we wish to see this Act upheld and strengthened! Reform do not say what they will replace it with, only that they will “ scrap

Diversity, Equality and Inclusion (DE&I) rules”. Again, we do not know which rules, but scrapping such rules will impact the disabled and carers who are already under pressure.

They do say schools should have single sex facilities and they will mandate Single Sex Spaces in Public toilets and changing areas.

List of candidates standing in Scotland is here.

The SDP’s manifesto has an entire section on sex based rights:

The liberal pursuit of individual autonomy and desire must be balanced by the common good. Some citizens feel at odds with the physiology and social role associated with their natal sex and can suffer distress. Transgender people should be treated with dignity and respect, in keeping with their acquired gender in most situations. However, these rights must be balanced against the need of natal females for safety and sporting fairness. Biological sex is real and politically significant. This requires an absolute stance on relevant legal definitions in some domains.

  • We support segregation by biological sex in sport. Fair competition is not secured if male bodied transgender athletes are permitted to compete in women’s sport and, in the case of contact sports, the risk of injury can increase significantly. 
  • We support segregation by biological sex in prisons and women’s refuges in order to safeguard the safety and privacy of natal females. Separate prisons or prison accommodation should be provided for transgender citizens to ensure their safety and privacy. 
  • Transgender individuals wishing to change their sex marker should be allowed to do so. However, we support the continued necessity for medical gatekeeping in any legal change of sex marker. We oppose proposals that would allow someone to change their sex marker by self-identification only. 
  • The Equality Act and Gender Recognition Act will be amended to ensure that sex-based rights which require protection in key domains are not undermined by a change in sex marker. 
  • Healthcare spending and resources for gender dysphoric individuals, including long term psychological intervention, should be provided at sufficient levels. Physical or drug based medical treatments for gender dysphoria should be prohibited for anyone under 18 years of age. 
  • We support the retention of biological sex and gender identity as distinct categories in public sector data gathering such as crime statistics, poverty metrics or public health research. 
  • We support the use of plain English for discussions of biological sex in health and reproductive care.

There are two candidates standing in Scotland: Allan MacMillan in Ayrshire Central and Ian Gibson in Ayrshire North & Arran.

There was a bit of an internet stooshie when we posted a comment from an Edinburgh candidate on women’s rights. However, we are told this was a clarification and expansion.

The section in the (very short) manifesto on Women’s Rights reads:

Give women full protection of the law against domestic violence and misogyny. Pension justice for WASPI women. Protect women’s sex-based rights. Equal pay for every type of work. Full rights to socialised child care. Oppose sexism in society.

The CPB do, however have an excellent women’s charter which says:

  • The principle of women only spaces to be upheld – and where necessary extended. Gender neutral spaces should be additional to women’s spaces. 
  • Maintain the exemptions in the Equality Act that allow for single sex services or requirements that only a woman can apply for a job 
  • Ensure that women have an absolute right to self-organisation as women. 

They also recognise prostitution as one of the worst forms of human exploitation and reject the assertion “sex work is work”, seeing it as inherently violent, involving extreme levels of rape, degradation and humiliation.

The party clarified that they support a ban on all conversion therapy for LGB people and a ban on “regressive” conversion therapy for trans people. They also support “the right of trans people to medically transition, to have access to healthcare and live equal, full and meaningful lives, socially, economically and politically.”

There are three candidates standing in Scotland: Drew Gilchrist in Coatbridge and Bellshill, Richard Shillcock in Edinburgh North and Leith, and Gary Steele in Glasgow North East.

The Liberal’s manifesto has a section on women’s rights:

  • Supports the WASPI women in their claim for compensation for the adjustment to the state pension age which has left many financially disadvantaged.
  • Supports the amendment of the Equality Act 2010 to clarify that “sex” means biological sex and excluding biological males from women’s sports, prisons, shelters, rape centres and all women single sex safe spaces.
  • Opposes self ID for the purpose of gender recognition and therefore we will maintain Section 35 to stop the Gender Recognition Reform Bill from entering into force in Scotland.

There is one candidate standing in Scotland: Allan Steele in East Renfrewshire.

The SFP’s manifesto covers:

Schools and gender identity ideology:

  • Teaching children that they can choose their gender is extremely harmful. 
  •  Parents should be free to overrule interventions by government agents when guiding their children on such matters. 
  • The philosophy of gender fluidity is dangerous to young people, leading to confusion and unhelpful experimentation.
  • Parents should have a strong voice in determining how these issues are approached in schools.

Gender Recognition Act:

  • Oppose the proposed Gender Recognition Act.
  • There should be no provision to change gender legally. 
  • Transgender “treatments” for under 16s should be stopped, and thereafter only offered where sound evidence justifies it and the patient is fully aware of the likely long-term outcomes.

We agree with the SFP that buying sex should be criminalised and women helped out of prostitution, however we disagree that these women should be criminalised as we know that it discourages them from reporting abuse. We also agree that pornography is extremely harmful, especially to young people.

We do believe that many of their other policies would be damaging to women’s hard-won rights. These include:

  • Limiting abortion terms
  • Withdrawal of charitable status for orgs that provide abortion
  • Disallowing groups in receipt of Government money to campaign for abortion
  • Repeal provisions in the Equality Act that allow jobs to be sex-specific (SFP talk of protecting single-sex spaces but are apparently unaware that this is the legal basis which permits, for example, limiting jobs in Rape Crisis Centres to women only)
  • Removing  “psychological abuse” from domestic abuse laws
  • Claim that gender pay gap is a “reflection of the natural differences between men and women, and no government action is required to address it” and that claims under unequal pay are unjust.

We are not sure what they mean when they say that “The Scottish Government’s policy of special treatment for female offenders must end”. Women in prison are often extremely vulnerable – the majority are victims of domestic violence – and women are more likely to be convicted of non-violent crimes. They are also more likely to see their family taken into care and to lose contact with relatives. If anything, we need better treatment for women in prison!