On Thursday 6/12/18 the Scottish Parliament Equalities and Human Rights Committee met with Christina McKelvie MSP , the Minister for Older People and Equalities for an ask-the-Minister session. In the week or so leading up to this session the Committee had taken the move to ask members of the public via Twitter and Facebook for their questions and concerns, a selection of which were put to the minister. I took this opportunity to ask some questions of my own and was lucky enough to have a few selected. I’ll create a separate post for each category and will include those questions from others which were within the same topic as my own.
It is worth noting that many of my questions relate directly to the work of this Committee during the time period when Christina McKelvie was Convener, who has only recently been elevated to ministerial office in June 2018.
Unfortunately my own question on the Gender Representation Public Boards (Scotland) Act 2018 did not get asked –
“Is the Minister concerned that the new legislation for women’s representation on public boards (which has included male self identifying transwomen) has failed to recognise the core reason that women are discriminated against is because of their female sex?”
But I have decided to copy and paste the questions that were asked during this session along with the Minister’s responses to them.
“You will be aware that, earlier in this parliamentary session, this committee considered the Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) Bill— indeed, as convener, you led the committee through that process. John Thompson, via Twitter, asked:
“What is the status of the Gender Representation on Public Boards bill that passed almost a year ago, and is there any scope for public comments about the specifics of its implementation?” ” – Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP
“The straight and easy answer to the latter part of the question is yes, but I will go into some detail on that. Thank you for your warm welcome back to the committee, by the way.
As you know, the bill was passed in January 2018 after being considered thoroughly by this committee. The bill received royal assent in March 2018, and I recently signed off some of the new associated regulations. The regulations and the guidance will go out to consultation, which is why my straight answer to Mr Thompson is yes. There will be an opportunity at that point for full public consultation.
I encourage Mr Thompson and anybody else who has an interest in these matters to take part in that consultation. As you know, the Government wants to ensure that we use lived experience in all our policy making, so Mr Thompson’s thoughts, and anybody else’s thoughts, will be welcome. Please look out for the consultation. It will be happening soon; as soon as it does, please highlight it to Mr Thompson, to give him the opportunity to respond.”
“If we look back on the bill with a year’s hindsight, are there any gaps? Is there anything that we should have done differently? ” – Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP
“I do not think so. However, people have lots of different views and the consultation might throw some of those up. We scrutinised the issues thoroughly when I was on your side of the table, so I am quite confident that we did not miss anything. However, if anybody thinks that we have missed anything, we would be happy to hear about it. “
The Minister is “quite confident” that nothing was missed during the drafting of this Bill. I think the fact that the definition of ‘Women’ was redefined to include self identifying transwomen without any public consultation on this point is a major issue!
There will be a public consultation on the regulations and guidance of this Act and this might be an opportunity to raise this point to them.
I have 5 Campaign Aims and having the definition of ‘Woman’ within this Act to be amended is top of my list. It is already setting a dangerous precedent, as has been seen during talks on the current Census Bill.