UK

Scottish Secretary ‘minded to pursue Scottish Government for gender Bill costs’

The Scottish Secretary made the comments at the Scottish Affairs Committee (Andrew Milligan/PA)
The Scottish Secretary made the comments at the Scottish Affairs Committee (Andrew Milligan/PA) The Scottish Secretary made the comments at the Scottish Affairs Committee (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack has said he is “minded” to pursue the Scottish Government for around £150,000 in costs relating to the court battle over controversial gender reforms.

Mr Jack blocked the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill in January of this year after it was passed by Holyrood over fears it could impact on existing equalities legislation.

On Friday, Lady Dorrian ruled that his intervention – the first time Section 35 of the Scotland Act was used to block legislation – was lawful.

As the Scottish Government mulls an appeal against the decision, which can be submitted in the next three weeks, the Scottish Secretary told the Scottish Affairs Committee he was considering seeking the legal costs incurred from the Scottish Government.

He told MPs: “I am minded to seek costs from the Scottish Government and I am having those discussions with our law officers.”

Mr Jack went on to urge the Scottish Government not to appeal against the decision, stressing the pressure on the public purse, which could be increased if the UK Government seeks reimbursement for legal fees with Mr Jack claiming an appeal could “double”.

He also pressed the First Minister not to be “held to ransom” by the Scottish Greens into continuing to pursue the legislation.

“I think if he is bullied by Patrick Harvie, Lorna Slater and Ross Greer, that is a weakness on his behalf and will lead to an utter waste of taxpayers’ money when they’re saying they’ve got budget constraints,” he said.

“That makes no sense to me whatsoever.”

The decision to block the legislation, he said, was not based on a “culture war”.

The Scottish Secretary was also asked if he would consider using Section 35 more now that he has won the ruling at the Court of Session, to which he said he would not.

He added that there were no current Bills going through Holyrood that would require his intervention.

Humza Yousaf
Humza Yousaf The First Minister said on Monday there had been no decision taken yet on a potential appeal (Pete Summers/PA)

The comments come after the First Minister said on Monday there had been no decision taken regarding an appeal of the decision.

Speaking to the PA news agency, the First Minister said: “We will consider legal advice, we’ll consider, of course, other factors with urgency and with pace.

“There’s a very narrow window, as you know, to make a decision on any appeal.

“We’ve not come to a decision yet because we have to consider, as I say, important issues like the legal advice.

“And as soon as we have an update to give Parliament, we’ll make sure they’re informed in due course.”

Meanwhile, Alba Party Holyrood leader Ash Regan has tabled a motion at Holyrood calling for the legislation to be scrapped.

“Hundreds of thousands of pounds have already been wasted and it would be unimaginable for the Scottish Government to appeal this decision and then ultimately proceed to a situation of potentially asking the UK Supreme Court to overturn a decision of Scotland’s highest court,” she said.

“I resigned from the Government as I simply could not support legislation that is so ill thought out, opposed by women’s groups across Scotland and a fundamental risk to the safety of women and girls.

“The Scottish Government lost the battle in court and they will further lose the support of the people of Scotland if they keep pursuing this policy.

“I urge Humza Yousaf to now completely scrap his Government’s gender reforms.”