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Heckler removed from charity celebration after verbal attack on First Minister

This news post is over 1 year old

An event, hosted by Zero Tolerance Scotland, saw the incident which was shared widely on social media.

A charity event featuring Nicola Sturgeon and focused on violence against women and girls in Scotland was interrupted by a heckler who threw accusations at the First Minister. 

The SNP leader was speaking at an event hosted by charity Zero Tolerance Scotland on Tuesday, marking 30 years of the group’s work in Scotland. 

Videos shared on social media show a woman from the crowd heckling the politician over the government’s Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill , which is currently working its way through Holyrood.

The reforms propose to remove the requirement for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria as a condition of acquiring a gender recognition certificate, as well as dropping the minimum age of applicants from 18 to 16, and limiting the amount of time most applicants need to live in their acquired gender to three months - down from two years. 

According to LGBTQ+ charities, the move will be greatly beneficial to trans men and trans women in Scotland, warning that the current procedure is slow, outdated, and unfair, as well as falling well below international best practice for legal gender recognition.

Some groups, describing themselves as “women’s rights campaigners”, have claimed that they have been silenced from sharing their criticism of the proposed legislation, including at the Zero Tolerance event on Tuesday. 

The charity shared its concerns about discussions at the event - which was focussed on ending violence against women - turning to the reforms at Holyrood. 

They said in a statement: “Today we commemorate 30 years of campaigning to end men's violence against women.

“Our vision is of a Scotland free from violence. To achieve that we need to build a movement where all women feel safe, particularly those marginalised by society, who are at greatest risk of men’s violence.

“Today’s event focuses on the violence faced by some of these women.

“We wish to create a safe and supported environment for all our guests and so have asked all participants to support us in this aim by refraining from discussions of the definition of a woman and single sex spaces in relation to the gender recognition act.

“We understand that as feminists we have strong opinions on these subjects. But this is not what this event is about.

“Instead, we would like to focus on how we can integrate prevention work across Scotland, engage in meaningful partnership work, and celebrate 30 years of our organisation working to create a Scotland free from violence against women and girls.”

Despite this, the individual in attendance used the event to attack, Ms Sturgeon, claiming that her government’s plans allowed “paedophiles, sex offenders and rapists to self-ID in Scotland and put women at risk”.

She added: “Shame on you, you’re letting down vulnerable women in Scotland, not allowed to have their own spaces away from any male.”

Organisers removed the heckler from the room, before the First Minister apologised for the interruption and warned against further stigmatising trans people. 

She told the crowd: “I do not, as I know this organisation does not, seek to close down anyone’s freedom of speech.

“It’s important that voices are heard, but it is important that all of us get the opportunity to speak freely about these issues.

“Much of what I am going to say today is about male violence towards women, because it is men that commit violence against women.

“In my long experience, most men who commit violence against women don’t feel the need to change gender to do that.

“Those who do, my argument is we should focus on them – because they are men abusing a system to attack women.

“What we shouldn’t do is further stigmatise a group of women who are too stigmatised already.”

The SNP leader added that she wanted the event to be about celebrating the women who set up the charity “that has changed and saved lives”.