Humza Yousaf refuses to share cost to taxpayers over legal bid

Sturgeon: Some gender Bill opponents using women’s rights to hide transphobia

Humza Yousaf today refused to say how much his legal challenge against the blocking of Scottish gender reforms is estimated to cost taxpayers. The new SNP leader admitted he had been given a “worst case scenario” sum but said it would not be revealed until the case has concluded.

A judicial review is to be sought by the Scottish Government after the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill, which was passed by Holyrood in December, was torpedoed by Westminster in January.

The UK Government argues the veto was used because the legislation, which simplifies the process trans people go through to obtain legal recognition in their preferred gender, impacted on UK-wide equality laws.

The new First Minister has been urged to declare how much Scottish taxpayers will be spending on the legal challenge.

It comes after the Scottish Government’s last legal showdown with Westminster in a bid to force a second independence referendum failed and cost an eye-watering £250,000.

Speaking during a visit to a nursery in Glasgow today, Mr Yousaf said he “can’t go into the detail of the cost because it is part of legal advice” he has received in relation to the case.

Asked if he has been given a “worst case scenario” figure of the total costs, he said: “Of course.”

But the SNP leader added: “I don’t go into legal advice in terms of what the cost of a court case may well be.

“But of course, at the conclusion of that court case, we’ll make those figures absolutely public and absolutely transparent.”

He also dismissed claims that his legal battle is doomed, saying: “If the legal advice said that there is not a stateable case, the Government wouldn’t take it forward.”

Scotland Secretary of State Alister Jack said the UK Government intends to “robustly defend” the legal challenge.

It comes as former Supreme Court judge Lord Sumption told the BBC that the Scottish Government’s position is “weak” and the legal challenge will be “very difficult”.

The case for judicial review will initially be heard in the Court of Session in Edinburgh but is widely expected to end up in the UK Supreme Court for a final decision.

The legal bid has also divided the SNP, with leadership rival Ash Regan today warning he faces a “humiliating defeat”.

SNP MP Joanna Cherry has urged Mr Yousaf to reform the Bill rather than push ahead with the legal challenge.

And former SNP MSP Alex Neil, who served in both Alex Salmond’s and Nicola Sturgeon’s Governments, said Mr Yousaf does not “have a cat in hell’s chance of winning”.

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme, Mr Neil said: “My own view is in terms of the challenge to the UK Government it would be far better just to reintroduce a Bill and this time in the Bill deal with concerns of women about places of safety for women and also deal with the UK Equality Act.

“We know that going to the Supreme Court, and every lawyer I have spoken to has told me, we don’t have a cat in hell’s chance of winning at the British Supreme Court.

“Let’s not hand this over to the Supreme Court in London. Let’s sort it out ourselves and pass a Bill that we can all unite behind and all be proud of.”

Meanwhile, the Scottish Tories have accused Mr Yousaf of launching the legal bid to distract attention from the SNP’s woes after a bruising leadership contest and amid a police investigation into the party’s finances.

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