MurrayBlackburnMackenzie is a policy analysis collective, established in late 2018.
Over the past 18 months, we have researched and written about women’s sex-based rights and gender self-identification across different areas of public policy in the UK. Within this short period, we have established a strong record of research impact:
- We have consistently called for greater consideration of the impact of proposed reforms to the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) 2004 on women’s sex-based rights. The need to address these concerns was acknowledged by the Cabinet Secretary when she announced the Scottish Government’s plans for GRA reform in June 2019, and in the consultation on the Government's draft Gender Recognition Reform Bill in December 2019.
- Our call for an inquiry into how official data on sex and gender identity is recorded is now being taken forward by the Scottish Government.
- Our work on proposals for the 2021 UK census and related research has been cited in the Scottish Parliament and informed parliamentary questions and debate.
- We have submitted evidence to the UK Parliament select committees, and other UK-wide consultations.
- We have commented extensively on women’s sex-based rights and gender self-identification policies in the media, including TV and radio interviews, and articles in the national and specialist press.
- We have published two peer-reviewed papers in academic journals. Our paper on the unregulated adoption of gender self-identification principles as a case study of policy capture in the August 2019 edition of Scottish Affairs was downloaded 8,123 times within three months of its publication. More recently, we published a paper which reviewed the introduction of self-declaration laws in other European jurisdictions in the May 2020 edition of the Edinburgh Law Review.
Scottish Government’s hate crime bill
On 24 April 2020, the Scottish Government introduced its draft Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill to the Scottish Parliament. The bill draws on a consultation undertaken in 2018, the responses to which were published last year. That consultation in turn drew on a review of hate crime laws carried out by Lord Bracadale in 2017.
The bill seeks to extend the list of protected characteristics which are regarded as aggravating factors under existing hate crime legislation and, in parallel, set up a working group to consider whether to add ‘gender’ to the list or introduce a standalone offence of misogyny. It also seeks to extend the offence of ‘stirring up hatred’ to all protected groups listed in the bill (currently these offences only apply to stirring up racial hatred).
There is growing concern from a wide range of commentators about these proposals, and their potential impact on freedom of speech. In a comment piece for Holyrood magazine on 20 May, we wrote about the importance of not shutting down dissenting voices and questioned whether there is sufficient parliamentary time and resource to consider such a controversial piece of legislation.
We would like to scrutinise these proposals, with a view to submitting a substantial piece of evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee, as part of its Stage 1 considerations of the bill. The deadline for submissions is 24 July 2020.
Anything we produce here may be relevant to any future proposals in other parts of the UK. The Law Commission in England and Wales intends to consult on reform of hate crime laws later this year, and also intends to consider the extension of ‘stirring up hatred’ offences.
Funds received via this crowdfunder will be used to pay for our time, plus any necessary print and postage costs. In line with our previous crowdfunder, we will allocate work based on our individual availability, paying ourselves an hourly rate of £15.
In the event that donations exceed our £1,500 target, we will use any additional funds not put towards work on the hate crime bill to undertake activities aimed at increasing the transparency of policy and law making, particularly in relation to the protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010. For instance: an analysis of how additional spending has been allocated across the different characteristics during the current pandemic and how access to government and parliament compares across the nine characteristics, based on publicly available information, or that which can be obtained via freedom of information legislation.
Dr Kath Murray is a research fellow in Criminology at the University of Edinburgh. She completed her PhD in 2014, looking at the disproportionate use of stop and search on young, working class men in Scotland. Her research in this area led to major legal and policy reform, for which she received an Economic and Social Research (ESRC) Outstanding Impact prize.
Lucy Hunter Blackburn is a former senior civil servant in the Scottish Government (Head of Higher Education Division, Head of Reducing Reoffending Division and Director of Policy at Historic Scotland). Lucy is coming to the end of researching for a PhD at the University of Edinburgh looking at student finance.
Lisa Mackenzie is a former civil servant in the UK Government (Government Communications Service) and has worked in a number of Whitehall departments, including the Department for Social Security and Home Office, as well as the Commission for Racial Equality. More recently, she has worked for the Scottish Parliament's Futures Forum, a penal reform charity and a trade union.