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Scottish Government set to pay UK’s costs in gender case legal challenge

The Scottish Government looks set to pay the legal costs incurred by UK ministers in the gender reform court battle after it declined to oppose a motion at the Court of Session.

In January of last year, Scottish Secretary Alister Jack blocked the Scottish Government’s gender reforms, invoking for the first time Section 35 of the Scotland Act, claiming it interfered with UK-wide equalities legislation.

In December, the Court ruled that the action was lawful, despite a Scottish Government challenge.

Mr Jack announced earlier this month he would seek to recoup the costs incurred defending the Section 35 order, lodging a motion at the Court of Session on Friday.

Alister Jack
Alister Jack welcomed the news (Victoria Jones/PA)

Scottish ministers had until Monday at noon to oppose the motion, but it is understood they have declined to do so.

Responding to the news, Mr Jack said: “The Scottish Government chose to pursue this litigation in spite of the cost to the taxpayer.

“I am pleased they have taken the sensible decision not to oppose our motion for expenses. That could have further increased the cost to the taxpayer.”

Speaking before the Scottish Affairs Committee in December, the Scottish Secretary said the costs had hit £150,000, although it is not clear if this has increased.

Last week, Social Justice Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “Devolution is fundamentally flawed if the UK Government is able to override the democratic wishes of the Scottish Parliament.

“The costs incurred in this legal challenge relate to protecting the powers of the Scottish Parliament.”

The Bill would have made it easier for a transgender person to obtain a gender recognition certificate by removing the need for a medical diagnosis, as well as reducing the minimum age and the time required for someone to live in their acquired gender.

But opponents of the legislation said it could impact on protections for women and girls.

Despite the protestations, which saw unrest in the Holyrood chamber over the marathon two-day sitting in the Bill’s final stage, the legislation was passed by MSPs of all parties.

In December, Lady Haldane rejected Scottish Government arguments that the order had been issued as a result of a “policy disagreement”.