Douglas Ross says he ‘misspoke’ over claim trans women cannot change gender

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Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross has admitted he made an error by saying people cannot change their gender (Photo: John Devlin).

The Conservatives have pledged to ensure single-sex and gender neutral toilets are available in council buildings as part of their local councils’ party manifesto for the May elections.

Under this pledge, the Scottish Tories leader said a trans woman could not use single-sex facilities.

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When asked if a trans woman is a woman by BBC’s The Nine, Mr Ross said: “No, she is a female, sorry, a male who has changed her sex, but she has not changed her gender.”

However, speaking on Good Morning Scotland on Wednesday, Mr Ross said: “So I misspoke on a later comment in that interview and I’m very clear people can change their gender, they cannot change their sex – it’s their biologically born male or female .

“There are options to have gender-neutral changing rooms and toilets. In the Highland area I cover, there were proposals to have all gender-neutral toilets, but parents and pupils raised concerns and they’ve now gone back to the drawing board and there will male changing rooms, female changing rooms and gender neutral changing rooms.”

Under the Conservative proposal, Mr Ross said members of the public would be able to complain if they believe a trans person is using single-sex facilities.

He said: “This is what it comes down to – women feeling safe in their own spaces. The hard fought and won rights of women are under threat and that’s why we see more and more women coming forward and getting involved in this debate, articulating their concerns and they have to be listened to and responded to.”

Mr Ross said his policy would not be illegal under the Equalities Act. He said the party was “following what the EHRC [Equalities and Human Rights Commission] has said about these various facilities”.

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The Equality Act 2010 identifies nine protected characteristics, including gender reassignment and sex. All employers and service providers, whatever their size, are bound by the Act.

An example of direct discrimination includes refusing to allow a woman use of female facilities because staff perceive her to be male.

If there is separate facilities for cis-gender women and men, those running the facility must ensure there are facilities for trans people.

The EHRC says a person does not need to have a gender recognition certificate to be protected under the characteristic of gender reassignment.

Mr Ross said everyone would be able to use the gender neutral facilities after there were concerns raised “of girls and boys using the same facilities”, according to the Scottish Tory leader.

He also named Conservative MPs who made sexist claims about Labor deputy leader Angela Rayner, published in The Mail on Sunday, as “cowardly” and “hiding behind an anonymous quote”.

He said: “Her response has been very strong and very powerful.

“We want more women in politics and we want more people from Angela Rayner’s background coming into politics reaching the very top in her party as she has done and performing exceptionally well.”

Mr Ross said if those who made the comments come forward, they should face “the toughest sanctions”, adding “they have no place in our party”.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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