A HUMAN rights body has said it has identified no “real and concrete” concerns over Scottish Government proposals to reform gender recognition legislation.

Ministers have proposed to remove the need for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria for the obtaining of a gender recognition certificate (GRC).

The legislation would also lower the minimum age for a GRC from 18 to 16 and the waiting period from two years to three months with an additional three-month reflection period.

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Women’s groups and others have argued that changes to the legislation will impact on the rights of women and girls, but witnesses told a Holyrood committee that the reforms will have no such impact, particularly in relation to single-sex spaces and provisions in sport, which have become areas of contention.

Barbara Bolton, the head of legal and policy at the Scottish Human Rights Commission, told the equalities committee that the body interrogated the legislation when it was introduced earlier this year.

She said: “When the Bill came around again, the commission took a very conscious decision to look hard at this again.

The National: Barbara Bolton told the committee that the Scottish Human Rights Commission interogated the legislation when it was introducedBarbara Bolton told the committee that the Scottish Human Rights Commission interogated the legislation when it was introduced

“That was in recognition of the time that has passed and the possibility that concerns had been clarified, that perhaps further evidence had been produced of real and concrete harm that might arise.

“We made a very conscious decision internally to devote time to it, to really assess it.

“We did so and we’ve concluded again that we cannot identify any objectively evidenced real and concrete harm that is likely to result from these reforms.”

She added: “The majority, if not all of the concerns that have been outlined, do not appear to have a relationship with the proposals that are set out in this Bill.”

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Transgender people, Bolton said, would not be asked for their birth certificate or a GRC before accessing single sex spaces.

Bolton’s view, and that of the Scottish Human Rights Commission, is at odds with the UK-wide Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), which wrote to Social Justice Secretary Shona Robison earlier this year urging her to pause the legislation until the impacts on women and girls could be better understood.

In January this year, the EHRC were criticised for the letter by Scottish LGBT campaigners and dubbed “UK Government appointees” telling Scotland “how to legislate in devolved areas”.

The National: Baroness Kishwer Falkner's letter to Shona Robinson earlier this year caused controversyBaroness Kishwer Falkner's letter to Shona Robinson earlier this year caused controversy

In the letter Baroness Kishwer Falkner, a crossbench peer and EHRC chairwoman, said that a “more detailed consideration is needed before any change is made to the provisions in the Act”.

The correspondence prompted fury from equality campaigners with many LGBT organisations distancing themselves from the EHRC in the aftermath.

In an earlier evidence session, EHRC chief strategy and policy officer Melanie Field told the committee: “Questions continue to be raised in different quarters about potential consequences, for example in relation to the collection and use of data, participation and drug testing in competitive sport, measures to address barriers facing women and practices within the criminal justice system.

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“We fully recognise that these issues are complex, sensitive and divide opinion, but the current polarised debate is causing much harm and distress to people on all sides.

“It's our view that these questions should be engaged with and discussed and addressed carefully, openly and with respect before legislative change is made.”

The EHRC position was a reversal of its previous support for reform, with Bolton saying the Scottish body was not able to find an analysis that informed their position.

The National: Victor Madrigal-Borloz, an independent UN expert, backed Bolton's viewVictor Madrigal-Borloz, an independent UN expert, backed Bolton's view

She said: “If you are looking at a piece of legislation that is proposing to further the rights of a marginalised group and you’re a human rights body, and your position is that you oppose that legislation, then there is a considerable burden on you to set out very, very clearly on what basis that is.

Bolton’s view was bolstered by that of Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the UN’s independent expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

He said, in an international context, there was no evidence of a clear risk in self identification, adding that there had been “no materialisation of the concerns that were raised theoretically in the process of adoption of those processes”.