Could Westminster and Holyrood face a constitutional clash over gender law?

Rishi Sunak could be set for a major clash with the Scottish Government, with multiple reports suggesting that he will move to block Scotland’s gender recognition law this

week. To do so would likely prove controversial and would mean triggering Section 35 of the Scotland Act, becoming the first Prime Minister to use the legal power to block a

bill passed in Holyrood. But what is Section 35 and why is it controversial? – What is it? Section 35 is simply one section of the Scotland Act, which was passed

in 1998 and which established the devolution settlement largely as we know it today, granting powers to the Scottish Parliament. The section gives the UK Government the

power to block certain bills passed by the Scottish Parliament from gaining royal assent, but only under certain and limited conditions. Royal assent is crucial for bills to

become law. Any piece of proposed legislation that has passed all stages in the law-making process must undergo the formality of gaining royal assent – the monarch’s agreement to

make the bill an act. Under Section 35 the UK Government can legally intervene to block royal assent for a bill that a Secretary of State “has reasonable grounds to believe

would be incompatible with any international obligations or the interests of defence or national security”. The Government can also legally take action if it sees a bill as

making modifications to the law as “it applies to reserved matters”. Under such a scenario, ministers in London must have “reasonable grounds” to believe that any proposed

legislation would have an “adverse effect on the operation of the law as it applies to reserved matters”.