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This week police officers in Gwent arrested a woman accused of putting up posters declaring that “humans never change sex” and warning “men in dresses” to stay out of women-only spaces. 

You can see why certain people of a particular political bent might see this behaviour as an opportunity to enrol the police in their campaign to silence critics of their own agenda. But whether Gwent police over-reached in their powers remains to be seen. What is extraordinary about the arrest of women’s rights campaigner Jennifer Swayne is that officers are also said to have seized an academic book about the trans issue from Swayne’s home. Transgender Children and Young People: Born In Your Own Body is edited by Dr Heather Brunskell-Evans and reportedly (I have not read it) asserts that politics rather than science accounts for the recent rise in the number of transgender children.

I don’t envy the police in such situations. They have already fallen foul of their forces’ more enthusiastically woke officers seeking to intimidate citizens who dared to challenge trans orthodoxy; what possible excuse can they have for seizing part of a suspect’s library, unless they genuinely believe the book itself is an illegal publication?

Swayne’s arrest, however, was merely an appetiser for a more significant development this week. The Scottish Government, in a dreary and joyless competition with Jacinda Ardern and Justin Trudeau to see who can run the world’s most “progressive” administration, has committed to legislating to allow Scots to self-identify as any gender they wish. Obviously this is a controversial move, since being legally accepted as a woman when you were born male would no longer require any medical or psychological confirmation that you suffer from gender dysphoria. The move would also dispense with the requirement to live in your preferred gender for a minimum period of time.

Claims by supporters of this move that the legal change would impact on no one other than those trans people concerned have been vociferously disputed by women’s groups who fear their rights to single sex spaces – including changing rooms, women’s sports, prisons and refuges – would be further weakened. So far ministers – including the first minister, Nicola Sturgeon – have dismissed such concerns. Sturgeon enjoys her role as a champion of LGBT rights, with particularly heavy emphasis on the “T”. And anyway, she is in the comfortable (though democratically dangerous) position of knowing that nothing she does in government will have the slightest impact on her party’s support in the polls.

She is in a strong enough position, therefore, to dismiss the latest intervention by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), Britain’s independent human rights regulator, which has cautioned the Scottish Government on the move and has urged a pause in the legislative process, citing the risk of “extending the ability to change legal sex from a small defined group who have demonstrated their commitment and ability to live in their acquired gender, to a wider group who identify as the opposite gender at a given point.”

It adds: “The potential consequences include those relating to the collection of data, participation and drug testing in competitive sport, measures to address barriers facing women and practices within the criminal justice system.”

Given the respect the EHRC enjoys within the political and legal establishment across the country, one might have expected Scottish ministers to consider this thoughtful contribution to their consultation seriously. They haven’t, though. Within hours of receipt of the letter, a spokesman told the media that it would have no impact on the Scottish Government’s legislative timetable.

At the same time various (publicly funded) trans pressure groups have resorted publicly to attacking the EHRC itself. 

Tim Hopkins, director of the Equality Network, chose to play the nationalists’ favourite card by dismissing the EHRC as a lackey of the hated Westminster government: “We do not need UK government appointees telling us in Scotland how to legislate in devolved areas.” No doubt Mr Hopkins would have been just as outraged if the EHRC had intervened to support the Scottish Government’s legislative timetable.

He need not worry either way. Moves to increase trans rights, even at the expense of women’s rights and in the face of opposition by the EHRC, is confirmation that trans ideology is less about human rights than about politics. When a considered, accurate and thoughtful request from Britain’s human rights regulator can be so easily and swiftly dismissed by Holyrood ministers, and when Scottish Government-funded trans rights ideologues can use nationalist dog whistling to undermine a profoundly important body like the EHRC, the issue can hardly be anything other than political.

Sturgeon’s support for trans rights is undoubtedly sincere. It’s a matter of regret that she and her publicly-funded supporters in civic Scotland turn such a deliberately blind eye to the rights of women. 

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