A TORY MSP has raised eyebrows after she suggested Scotland’s parliament only had the right to pass legislation if it was “good law”.

Rachael Hamilton (below), the MSP for Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire, made the comment on Channel 4 News while discussing the UK Government’s unprecedented step of blocking Scotland’s gender recognition reforms.

The National:

Asked whether the inevitability of the matter ending up in court was a “failure of democracy”, Hamilton said: “We need to make sure the law works right across the whole of the UK and the Scottish Parliament have already passed around 350 of their own accord that have been perfectly acceptable with the UK Government, so therefore, they have the right to pass their own laws if they make good law.”

'Questions to answer' 

Responding to her comments, the SNP’s Scotland spokesperson in Westminster Philippa Whitford said Hamilton was “insulting” her colleagues in Holyrood with the remarks and demanded she clarify them.

Whitford, who was made Scotland spokesperson after Stephen Flynn was elected SNP Westminster leader, said: “She needs to clarify what she means by ‘good law’.

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“This [bill] spent six years before getting through the Scottish Parliament, it went through 150 amendments. She may not like the outcome that was two-thirds of the parliament.”

She added: “She is in essence insulting her colleagues across Holyrood.

“Exactly what did she mean by that? Just when things agree with her, or that Scotland does what it’s told – or the Scottish Parliament, rather, does what it’s told.

“I mean this is a battle between the two parliaments, they try and make out it’s an SNP thing or a Scottish Government thing. This was cross-party and this is an attack on the Scottish Parliament.

“If you’re making comments like that, which I think are quite insulting to her MSP colleagues, she should be explaining exactly what it is she means.”

When asked for clarification on Hamilton's remarks, the Scottish Conservatives said it was "astonishing" the MP did not know what the term "good law" meant in context. 

A spokesperson for the party said: "It is quite astonishing that Philippa Whitford doesn’t know what good law means.

“It should be obvious to a Member of Parliament that in this context, 'good law' clearly means legislation that would not be subject to challenge, due to it straying into areas which can affect the rest of the United Kingdom.”

'Cynical politicking' 

Emma Roddick (below), an SNP MSP for the Highlands and Islands, added: "It did not take long for Rachel Hamilton and her Tory colleagues to run out of ways to defend Westminster's full frontal attack on devolution - this is a piece of competent devolved legislation that will help a small group of marginalised people and which received overwhelmingly with cross-party support. 

The National:

"Devolution is not about what the Tory UK Government decides is 'perfectly acceptable' law, it is about the clear-cut powers of the Scottish Parliament - perhaps the Tories should reflect on that."

And the Greens' Maggie Chapman, who represents the North East, said the Tories were exploiting the law for "cynical political reasons". 

She added: "The Tories actually supported Gender Recognition Reform until they saw a political opportunity to weaponise it and attack a vulnerable group. Now they are trying to block it for their own cynical political reasons.

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"It is part of a pattern that has seen them trying to set up hurdles and obstruct this small but important change at every step of the way. The reality is that it is one of the most scrutinised pieces of legislation in the history of our Parliament.

"Westminster cannot be given a veto over the rights of trans people or any other vulnerable group."

The bill – which was blocked by the Scottish Secretary Alister Jack from being signed into law earlier this week – is thought to be one of the most scrutinised laws Holyrood has ever considered.

Its purpose is to make it easier for trans people to obtain a gender recognition certificate, allowing them to change their gender on legal documents.

It removes the need for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria and lowers the age at which people can get a gender recognition certificate.

But opponents – within Holyrood and at the UK Government – said the bill as it stands collapses the distinction between biological sex and gender and tramples on single-sex protections set out in the Equalities Act.

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A UK Government spokesperson said: “The UK Government raised a number of concerns relating to the impact of the Scottish Government’s proposals with Scottish Ministers, as part of our constructive approach, in advance of the legislation passing.

“The Secretary of State for Scotland has made an order under section 35 of the Scotland Act 1998, preventing the Scottish Parliament’s Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill from proceeding to Royal Assent.

“This was done after thorough and careful consideration of all the relevant advice and the policy implications. This legislation would have an adverse impact on the operation of Great Britain-wide equalities legislation. 

“Transgender people deserve our respect, support and understanding. Our decision is about the legislation’s consequences for the operation of GB-wide equalities protections and other reserved matters.”