THE final debate on changes to gender recognition legislation has been severely disrupted after members of the public protested in the public gallery.

MSPs gathered to debate a whopping 153 amendments to the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill before the final vote is held on Wednesday.

Proceedings were almost immediately suspended after a motion submitted by the Scottish Conservatives, which sought to delay the vote under grounds that it had not been sufficiently consulted on, was not circulated to all MSPs.

Presiding Officer Alison Johnstone briefly suspended the Chamber while the oversight was rectified. The motion was then defeated in a vote.

However, after MSPs voted down an amendment put forward by Conservative MSP Russell Findlay, which sought to pause applications for a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) made by those charged with domestic abuse and fraud, an argument broke out in the public gallery. 

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A member of the public could be heard to say "shame on all of you" as the amendment was defeated while another responded by telling them to "shut up". The proceedings were once again suspended.

The entire public gallery was then cleared, with some MSPs stating that those who refused to leave were threatened with arrest by police officers.

The debate continued after a suspension of around 30 minutes. Yet Labour MSP Pam Duncan-Glancy was critical of the decision to entirely clear the public gallery.

She said it was “disproportionate response” and noted her approval that members of the public were being allowed back into the chamber.

Elsewhere in the debate amendments which sought to maintain the age that a person can apply for a GRC to 18 were voted down, though not before a fractious disagreement between Tory MSP Rachael Hamilton and Scottish Greens MSP Maggie Chapman.

After SNP MSP Ash Regan – who rebelled against her party whip during the Stage 2 vote on the legislation – expressed concerns that reducing the age that people can apply for a GRC would negatively impact neurodivergent children, Maggie Chapman raised a point of order during an amendment being put forward by Rachael Hamilton.

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Chapman asked whether Hamilton thought that it was wrong to “weaponise neurodiversity and neurodivergent young people” and say that they were “incapable of making decisions for themselves”.

Hamilton said Chapman’s intervention was “disgraceful” and that it lowered the tone of the debate. She added that one of her own family members was neurodivergent and told Chapman to “never intervene in that manner again because it is very upsetting from a personal point of view.”

But when Green MSP Lorna Slater – who is herself neurodivergent – requested her own point of order during Hamilton’s speech she was denied by the Tory MSP.

However, Labour’s Daniel Johnson, who is also neurodivergent, was permitted a point of order and said that while he understood Chapman’s concerns “it was incredibly important we think through this carefully.”

Earlier in the debate Tory MSPs were criticised for delaying the proceedings by raising a series of points of order and amendments to the week’s business agenda before amendments on the bill could be heard.

The debate will continue into tomorrow.