CONTEXTUALISING the significance of Scotland’s gender recognition reform legislation is vital. Paused in 2019 over women’s fears about its impact but revived in 2021, the climate for critics is dangerous and aggressive.

Meantime promises of progress towards Scottish independence have been made, broken and rehashed. The SNP’s popularity plunged. The #WomenWontWheesht movement blossomed despite smear campaigns.

Innumerable Yes voters from 2014, alarmed at the prospect of independence if leadership remains intransigent in the face of legitimate concerns, feel forced to choose between women’s rights and their desire for Scotland to regain the status of an independent country.

The reach of gender ideology is immense. Its impact on our nation’s destiny cannot be ignored. Concerns about its effects on the rights of women are about sex, specifically maleness, not people’s trans status.

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In 2021, I renewed my enhanced disclosure certification. The application form did not ask about sex but gender. I sought clarity. This was the response provided: “It is understood that this question is asked to confirm a person’s identity. In the wider context, the term sex refers to the physical differences between males and females, whereas a person’s gender identity is not restricted to being either a male or female. As some people do not identify with any gender or identify with multiple genders asking for their gender is more inclusive than asking for their sex.

“While there is no legal requirement to ask for gender, it would potentially be discriminatory to people who did not identify as either male or female if they were only asked to provide their sex.”

A further enquiry to Disclosure Scotland led to this: “A gender is required on the application. The applicant should use their present name and gender. They do not have to answer yes to the part of the form which asks for previous names, unless they had other names that do not relate to a previous gender.

“Even though they do not need to disclose previous names on the application, they’ll need to provide these to Disclosure Scotland separately by email. We have Disclosure to ensure that those working with the vulnerable are safe to be around.”

Contrary to what some government ministers appear to believe, predators don’t have “#PREDATOR” tattooed on their foreheads. Children’s panels and sheriffs appoint professionals to interview children. Self-evidently, anyone coming into contact with those children must be trustworthy, beyond reproach. You’d expect that truthful, honest and accurate personal information should be demanded.

Reliance on self-reporting is flawed. We now risk the tragic situation in which a little girl abused by a man has no guarantee that her interviewer will be female. Why enable the telling and recording of false information? Who benefits from the taking of unnecessary risks?

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Scottish hospitals guidance states that if a female patient objects to a trans woman on her ward, nurses should “work to allay the patient’s concerns” and “re-iterate that the ward is female only and there are no men present”. A female patient in England was raped by a trans-identifying male yet hospital authorities initially refused to disclose to police the presence of a trans patient on the female ward.

Last year a 6ft 5ins trans-identifying male prisoner with sexual and assault convictions was remanded to Cornton Vale. Women protested. Holyrood’s politicians stayed silent.

Women reluctant to share refuges with trans-identifying males in Scotland were required to “leave their prejudice at the door”. Women battered by men risk re-traumatisation.

Scotland’s schools build gender-neutral toilets. Girls are legally entitled to their own toilets by virtue of the School Premises (General Requirements and Standards) (Scotland) Regulations 1967. We will see legal challenges where there is inadequate separate private provision for girls.

Women’s arguments for single-sex provision were not valid. Accusations of bigotry followed. Males have screamed abuse – “Witch! Witch! Witch!” – and intimidated women at peaceable events. Not one such male was arrested.

An assailant of a woman in Aberdeen was not prosecuted but simply “warned”, notwithstanding corroboration of violence. Warnings have been issued for sex offences. Our female Justice Secretary claims relevant rules are publicly available but FOIs show absurd levels of redactions. There is no intelligible explanation for why misogyny was excluded from the Hate Crime Act.

Why have faith in pronouncements on combating violence against women and girls, promoting women into public boards and elected politics when men can take women’s places, boys can play in girls’ football teams and youths use girls’ toilets?

These developments are painful to observe for those of us who spent a lifetime campaigning for independence.

Support for the SNP has plummeted since December when the Gender Recognition Reform Bill was passed by Holyrood. Some women consider we’re safer in the Union where Tories pretend to be on our side. It’s rank hypocrisy considering the two-child rape clause but Tories are as ever opportunistic.

The gender war in Scotland has not only jeopardised women’s rights; it has damaged the lives of trans people thrust into an unwelcome spotlight. Nobody seriously suggested before these days that it was possible to change sex nor, in the context of commission of sexual offences including rape, had anyone considered the enforced use of female pronouns.

For religious and cultural reasons, decency, safety, peace of mind and recovery, women need single-sex spaces. Removing a medical diagnosis as a prerequisite to obtaining a gender recognition certificate and contending that a GRC changes sex for all purposes, as the Scottish Government has done, only harms single-sex rights.

In essence, male feelings trump the rights of women. Equality is about balancing and respecting the rights of all. The best ending to the current confected argument with Westminster is a negotiated conclusion whereby the GRR Bill is nullified.

A government elected to deliver independence should concentrate all minds on that goal. Scotland’s people deserve a commitment to a written constitution in an independent Scotland where single biological sex rights, protections and exceptions are enshrined. Once that is achieved, our cause will be re-energised and we can march together with confidence and hope towards the freedom which will transform the future destinies of Scotland’s people.

Eva Comrie is the Alba Party’s national equalities convener