MINISTERS were not aware that Isla Bryson was being sent to a women’s prison after her conviction for rape, the Scottish Parliament has been told.

Speaking at Holyrood Justice Secretary Keith Brown said the decision to send Bryson to Cornton Vale prison in Stirling was made “without ministerial involvement, nor indeed awareness” and was in line with existing procedures.

He stated that the “substantial public debate and concern” around the issue prompted ministers and the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) to look into the cases of Bryson and Tiffany Scott specifically.

He said: “At the time that either of these cases were brought to public attention the SPS had not taken a decision about the future placement of the individuals concerned. The process of considering these cases was still under way.

“The decision to initially accommodate this prisoner [Bryson] in HMP Cornton Vale while the risk assessment was done was made without ministerial involvement, nor indeed awareness, and in line with existing procedures.

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“Neither of the cases that have been highlighted arose from any change to Scottish Government legislation or policy or any change to the SPS’s risk assessment procedure that has operated in recent years. They arose from the specific circumstances of each case.”

He added that while the concerns expressed about the safety of prisoners in the female estate were legitimate, they should be careful not to associate these cases with the transgender population in general.

“We must not allow the legitimate questions that are being asked to fuel the view that trans women somehow pose an inherent threat to women when that is not the case," he said. 

The National: Isla Bryson has been convicted of raping two women when she was a manIsla Bryson has been convicted of raping two women when she was a man

"What is important is the crime they have committed and the risk that they pose to other prisoners, to staff, and indeed themselves.

“I have said this before and I’ll say it again: we are talking about a very small number of people. Transgender people in the prison estate account, today, for roughly 0.27% of the entire prison population.

"That equates to around 20 people out of 7367 prisoners. As of today we have around 17 trans women, the majority of whom are kept in the male estate.”

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The Scottish Conservatives claimed that Nicola Sturgeon had refused to come to Holyrood to answer questions posed about transgender criminals in prisons herself.

Tory MSP Russell Findlay said the First Minister had “created the obscene situation in which a double rapist was sent inside a women’s prison”.

He added: “She presided over gender self-ID in Scotland’s prisons, she invalidated women’s concerns about single-sex spaces being compromised, she created the obscene situation in which a double rapist was sent inside a women’s prison.

“She should be here to answer questions about this mess which is entirely of her own making.”

Parliamentary business minister George Adam insisted that “the normal way of parliamentary business” was for the Justice Secretary to make the statement to MSPs. 

Findlay has written to Holyrood’s Criminal Justice committee and called on them to conduct a “full investigation” into how Bryson was sent to Cornton Vale.

During Bryson’s time at Cornton Vale prison she was kept in the segregation unit, according to the SPS.

She was then moved to HMP Edinburgh men’s prison after the First Minister confirmed that Bryson would not serve her sentence in Cornton Vale.

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The SPS are currently undertaking two reviews into their policies on transgender prisoners. One was already under way and another is specifically in response to the Bryson case.

Until they are completed no transgender person with a history of violence against women – including sexual violence – will be moved from the male to the female estate, Brown confirmed.

The Tories appear to believe that this could be a resigning matter for Nicola Sturgeon despite the Scottish Government’s insistence that no material legislative change caused the uproar.

Tory MSP Stephen Kerr tweeted: “Nicola Sturgeon said last week she had no plans of leaving the post of First Minister. At this rate, it won’t be up to her …”

However, the hashtag #IStandWithNicolaSturgeon has also been trending on Twitter.