ALISTER Jack was accused of “not having a clue” as he addressed the Commons over the UK Government’s reasons for blocking Scotland’s gender reform legislation.

The Scottish Secretary gave a statement in which he told MPs the bill would have a “serious adverse impact” on the operation of the UK Equality Act 2010, including the operation of single-sex clubs, associations and schools, and protections such as equal pay.

But during a fraught debate he was challenged over a failure to give more details after repeatedly saying a statement of reasons would be published later – and squirmed when he was asked to explain exactly how a gender recognition certificate works.

SNP MPs also warned of an attack on devolution, while unionist politicians accused him of “playing fast and loose” with the union.

Dr Philippa Whitford, SNP spokesperson for Scotland, told the Commons that vetoing the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill is an “unprecedented attack” on the Scottish Parliament.

READ MORE: UK Government BLOCKS Scotland's Gender Recognition Reform Bill

She asked the Scottish Secretary to “explain exactly which parts of the Equality Act are changed by this Bill”.

She added: “Is he seriously, after 300 years of different marriage ages and voting ages, suggesting there can no longer be legal or age differences north and south of the border? “And does he recognise that vetoing this Bill simply highlights the hollow reality of devolution?”

Jack replied: “Our legal advice is very clear, the Equality Act 2010 is reserved and there are adverse effects and they will be there in the statement of reasons and I listed some of those in my statement I made only moments ago.”

SNP MP Hannah Bardell said: “This Tory Government make me sick to my stomach and if this Secretary of State is going to come to this House and trample all over trans rights, over Scottish democracy and over equality, he should at the very least do his homework.

“Because he clearly knows as little about this bill as he does about devolution.”

Jack was asked by SNP MP Kirsty Blackman to explain what the effect of a gender recognition certificate is and what it entitles someone to do.

There were cries of “he doesn’t know” as he responded by saying: “We believe…there is a reduction in safeguards for women and children and you will have plenty of time to read that today.”

SNP MP Stewart McDonald said: “Isn’t it the case that what we have here is a decaying Government in its last months in office, needing some red meat for its base, an utterly supine Labour Party trying to triangulate through all of this, meanwhile trans people are the collateral damage.”

The SNP’s Dave Doogan said: “You would think before pulling the trigger on a Section 35, you would be absolutely across your brief, but it seems today that the Secretary of State hasn’t got a clue.”

Meanwhile the SNP’s former Westminster leader said Scotland needs to “take away the threat” of intervention from the UK Government by leaving the Union.

Ian Blackford told the Commons: “We often hear about respecting the Scottish Parliament, but isn’t it the case that this absolutely demonstrates that power devolved is power retained? We accept that the Secretary of State has the powers enshrined in the Scotland Act under Section 35.

“But what the Secretary of State has just done is ignored the fact that parties that voted for this in the Scottish Parliament had a manifesto commitment. It had the majority of support in the Scottish Parliament.

“It absolutely demonstrates to everybody in Scotland that if you want to protect your Parliament, if you want to protect the rights of the Scottish Parliament to legislate on devolved matters, then we have to take away the threat of action from the Secretary of State.

“The only way that we protect our Parliament is by Scotland becoming independent.”

As a Conservative MP shouted “Bingo!”, the Scottish Secretary said: “Mr Speaker, I have just won a £10 note.”

The criticism of the UK Government’s section 35 order did not just come from the SNP.

Christine Jardine, Liberal Democrat MP for Edinburgh West, called on Jack to “justify why he is playing fast and loose with the union and really doing so much to hurt the most vulnerable people in our society”.

She said she had looked at every clause and amendment in the bill and spoken with MSPs from all parties to try find where the bill undermines the Equalities Act and protections on single sex spaces.

READ MORE: First Minister: 'Inevitable' row over gender bill will go to court

“I can’t find it – some of the UK’s finest legal minds have pored over this hugely scrutinised bill in great detail and found no conflict,” she added.

Jack replied: “Legal opinion may be divided on this, but the legal opinion we have taken is that there are adverse effects on the Equalities Act and the Gender Recognition 2004 Act.

“And I note the First Minister’s comments earlier today that she intends to take this to judicial review, so we’ll find out… whether the court of opinion that I’ve been hearing is right or wrong when we go to the legal courts.”

Labour’s Nadia Whittome accused the Government of “fanning the flames of a culture war”.

She said: “Will the minister admit what this section 35 order is really about, and that is fanning the flames of a culture war that is harming trans people across the UK?”

Jack replied: “No, that’s an appalling thing to say. It is entirely addressing the legal advice that I’ve been given.”