Scottish Labour rejects ‘sex-based rights’ motion backed by women’s conference and most CLPs

Tom Belger

Scottish Labour has voted down a motion submitted via its women’s conference which had urged it to “acknowledge the principle of women’s sex-based rights”, despite most Constituency Labour Party delegates and the Scottish Labour women’s conference supporting the motion.

Critics of the motion have hit out at “transphobia” within the party, but supporters said it was “chilling” to see a women’s conference motion voted down.

A card vote was held on the floor of the Scottish Labour party conference in Glasgow over the motion this weekend. LabourList can reveal 69.3% of CLP delegates’ votes were for the motion, but votes are weighted equally between CLP delegates and party affiliates.

The motion fell because 77% of affiliate votes were against it, making it the first and only motion to have been rejected by the conference. The party’s affiliate groups include trade unions, socialist societies and equality groups. Multiple sources told LabourList several trade unions voted against the motion.

The motion had urged Scottish Labour “to acknowledge the principle of women’s sex based rights, as well as those conferred upon them by other protected characteristics”.

“Conference calls on Scottish Labour to encourage positive debate within the Labour Party. Conference also calls on Scottish Labour to take account of the primacy of the Equality Act 2010 in policy development and to take the steps required to end inequality and protect women and girls from violence, discrimination, and exploitation,” it reads.

The final composite motion was a a merged version of an Edinburgh Southern CLP motion backed by Scottish Labour Women’s conference and a Rutherglen CLP.

LWD: ‘Chilling’ to see women’s conference motion rejected

A spokesperson for Labour Women’s Declaration, which backs the motion, said: “The sight of a sea of men’s hands voting against the motion from women’s conference was chilling. Scottish Labour and the trade unions involved need a long hard look at themselves.”

They said they would be “seeking an urgent meeting with the leadership” to see how members’ views would be upheld, and urged any unions which voted down the motion to “explain what they objected to, and when and where they consulted their women members before making this decision to oppose”.

Labour MP Rosie Duffield posted on X in support of LWD and the motion, adding: “We will continue to demand our rights whether these organisations like it or not.

LWD also said that the motion had “clearly supported single-sex spaces for women”, but had already been “watered down” from the women’s conference motion.

The Daily Record reports the initial version had included a line that did not make the final cut: “We recommend that Scottish Labour leadership follow Keir Starmer’s lead and openly recognise women as adult human females.”

Labour MSP Elaine Smith said the amended version “does not do justice” to the women’s conference version, according to The Daily Telegraph, and urged a rule change to ensure women’s conference motions remain unamended at conference. “Or else it looks like women’s voices are being silenced or watered down.”

Former Scottish National Party leadership candidate Ash Regan, now leader of the Alba party at Holyrood, sought to capitalise on the issue, claiming Labour had “made it clear that they also cannot be trusted to listen to women on what we need from legislators and policymakers to protect the dignity & safety of women and girls”.

‘The party of equality must stand for trans rights’

But Lauren Harper, youth representative on Labour’s Scottish Executive Committee, said delegates were “absolutely” right to reject the motion, which would have been a “step in the wrong direction”. The original would also have been “far worse”.

She praised the trade unions which voted against it, saying Labour’s “progressivism comes from the trade unions” and that there is misogyny and transphobia within Labour that “comes from the same bigotry”.

“Trans people and women are not at odds, and it benefits the capitalist class most when the discussion is about single-sex spaces not the barriers that the two groups share to having their rights in the workplace and wider society recognised and respected. It’s a form of hegemony to keep the the two groups from realising their true enemy of their rights, the capitalist class.”

Another youth delegate, who did not want to be named, told LabourList: “As the party of equality, the party who scrapped Section 28 and brought in the equality act, if we don’t stand for the rights of trans-peoples then those previous achievements and accolades become hollow. No-one who claims to be on the left should be willing to have one groups’ rights protected at the expense of the existence of another minority.”

Ttwo candidates running against each other to be the Scottish Labour youth representative in Labour’s national policy forum process also issued a joint statement saying: “We reaffirm our support for our trans comrades”. They urged the party to now “reaffirm the Scottish Labour Party’s support for our transgender community” following the vote.

Another trans member also questioned the motion’s reference to 2010 equality legislation. The motion says that the Equality Act allows for some single-sex spaces.

The member said interpretation of the law was contested, and guidance indicates it is only allowed when it is a “proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim” such as privacy, decency, preventing trauma or health and safety”.

Scottish Labour was approached for comment.

Read more of LabourList’s Scottish Labour party conference 2024 coverage from our editor in Glasgow:





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