ANAS Sarwar has been branded a “f****** disgrace” after claiming the Scottish Government “didn’t go far enough” in accepting amendments to Holyrood’s gender reforms.

The Scottish Labour leader made a screeching U-turn on his policy position on the reforms after Keir Starmer visited Scotland this week as part of the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election campaign trail.

Sarwar said ministers should “reflect” on their reluctance to pass changes relating to single-sex spaces and sex offenders.

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But Scottish Labour did not put forward any amendments relating to sex offenders, while those relating to single-sex spaces were branded as “grandstanding” by a furious source.

In fact, Scottish Labour MSPs were whipped to vote in favour of the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill during the Stage 3 process in December last year.

“We still have work to do to make sure that we are protecting single-sex spaces based on biological sex, to make sure we have stronger protections when it comes to sex offenders - when it comes to those convicted of sexual offences, for example, rape - and I think the government should reflect that they didn’t go far enough in accepting amendments,” Sarwar told STV.

The National: Sarwar made the comments during a visit from Labour deputy Angela RaynerSarwar made the comments during a visit from Labour deputy Angela Rayner (Image: PA)

He also refused to say if he would vote for the reforms again.

The gender reforms would have simplified the process to allow transgender people to self-identify, removing the medical element, during the process of applying for a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC).

However, the Scotland Office blocked the reforms from becoming law, now the subject of a looming legal challenge. 

The National analysed the amendments put forward by Scottish Labour, a number of which were small changes, such as adding the word “the” to a sentence, with 20 successfully passing.

Of the 22 meatier amendments that the party put forward for a vote, but failed to pass, only one, by Claire Baker, would have made a substantial change to the legislation. Her changes would have raised the age of an applicant for a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) from 16 to 18, but MSPs were whipped to vote against it, with only 11 backing it.

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A furious source said: “The others [amendments] generally were things that would have made life a bit more awkward – and some unnecessary grandstanding around interaction with the Equality Act – but certainly not in deal or no deal territory.”

“It’s a f****** disgrace,” the source added, claiming that Sarwar told the group while deciding what amendments to put forward, and which to vote for, that the party's goal was not to be "the story". 

One amendment, from deputy leader Jackie Baillie, called for guidance to be produced for public bodies and service providers on the impact on single-sex spaces.

The National:

Baker (above) also put forward a number of amendments on producing guidance and making it publicly available, as did Pauline McNeill.

Both Baker and McNeill lost Scottish Labour frontbench positions after voting against the legislation at the final stage.

Elsewhere, Baillie also moved a number of amendments setting out that the Equality Act 2010 still applied in certain areas, and collecting data based on “sex”, rather than gender.

West Scotland region MSP Paul O’Kane moved a number of amendments that fell, relating to proof of identity and statutory declaration, while North East region MSP Michael Marra’s attempt to include a countersignatory to applications was also unsuccessful, as Scottish Labour MSPs were whipped to vote against it.

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Glasgow region MSP Pam Duncan-Glancy’s unsuccessful amendments related to “manifestly unfounded applications” and civil court remedies, while Lothian region MSP Sarah Boyack called for a review of gender identity healthcare.

Martin Whitfield, MSP for South Scotland region, focused on 16 and 17-year-olds' capability of understanding the implications of obtaining the certificate, making a statutory declaration, and if the application had been made “under coercion”.

One amendment from Whitfield, that the group did not move, called for any young person applying for a GRC to have spoken to someone aged 18 first.

While the Scottish Tories put forward numerous amendments relating to both issues named by Sarwar, they were supported by very few MSPs and were nowhere near the required number of votes in favour to pass.

The National: Michelle Thomson MSP SNP during the new MSPs' first meet with the Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh after the Scottish Parliamentary Elections, in Holyrood, Edinburgh. Picture date: Wednesday May 12, 2021..

One, a joint amendment by SNP MSP Michelle Thomson (above) and Russell Findlay, regarding applications by those charged with a sexual offence to be barred from applying for a GRC, was the closest to passing, with 61 for and 62 against.

However, an amendment put forward by SNP MSP Gillian Martin, stating that the chief constable would be required to notify the Registrar General if any sex offenders applied, did pass.

“Nobody recognises Labour any more, they seem to have abandoned their values, and can no longer be trusted to stand up against bigotry and prejudice,” Scottish Greens equalities spokesperson Maggie Chapman said.

“And we don’t know if they’ll back devolution and join the fight to protect laws passed in Scotland by our parliament.

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“It is clear that Anas Sarwar has been sidelined as leader and London are running their show in Scotland now.”

Chapman (below) said Sarwar’s change in position ahead of the looming court hearing regarding the UK Government’s use of a Section 35 order to stop the gender reforms from becoming law was “heartbreaking” for the LGBT community.

“They must be wondering what else Labour is willing to sacrifice for a handful of cheap, grubby votes,” she said.

The National: Maggie Chapman

“This is particularly true for asylum seekers fleeing persecution because of their gender or sexuality who now face the very real prospect of any future Brexit-friendly new Labour government turning its backs on refugees on multiple grounds.

“Scottish Labour did the right thing last year and backed gender reforms for Scotland in the face of a quite vile Tory opposition.

“Now, at the behest of Sir Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner, it seems Anas Sarwar has been told to reverse that stance.”

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In February, Sarwar told the Daily Record he did not regret supporting Holyrood’s gender reforms but insisted tighter curbs on sex offenders should have been introduced.

He has been accused of falling into line under Labour leader Starmer on a number of issues including the two-child benefit cap, workers’ rights, and now gender reforms. Starmer has said he is against the policy of self-ID.

A Scottish Labour spokesperson said: "Scottish Labour put forward dozens of amendments and supported many others which were voted down by the Scottish Government.

"In negotiations we also suggested a number of improvements that were not put to an eventual vote or tabled after the Scottish Government made it abundantly clear that they would not be supported."