Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 28th April 2022.
I think that safeguarding is important, but I think that it is also important that we understand and apply principles of safeguarding properly.
I hope that everyone recognises, as the Scottish Government does, that it is important and right that trans people or anyone who is questioning their gender identity should have access to the right support at the right time for them. One of the biggest issues in this area is that of the waiting times for access to NHS gender identity services, for adults as well as for young people. That is why we are making the investments that I referenced in my original answer.
It is also important to recognise that, in Scotland—as a matter of law under the Age of Legal Capacity (Scotland) Act 1991, which predates the life of this Parliament—any person under 16 can consent to a medical procedure or treatment when the qualified medical practitioner attending them considers that they are
“capable of understanding the nature and possible consequences of the procedure or treatment.”
Rightly, any decision on the type of treatment to prescribe is for the clinician to make, in consultation with the patient, following an individual assessment.
On the issue of puberty blockers, it is also important to narrate that the Sandyford young people’s services reported that, during the 11 years from 2011 to 2021, fewer than 100 young people in total—93—were referred for an appointment with a hormone specialist. That is an average of eight per year. The number of young people who were prescribed hormones was even smaller than that.
We must take these issues seriously, but we owe it to everybody also to treat these issues incredibly sensitively and, in doing so, to have at the heart of it the rights of all young people to get the advice that they need at the time that is right for them.