What Is Section 35 Of The Scotland Act?

A Venerable Puzzle

After weeks of speculation, the Secretary of State for Scotland, Alister Jack, has blocked the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill from receiving Royal Assent. The law seeks to simplify the process of changing one’s legal gender in Scotland,[1] and Jack has justified his actions on the grounds that the Bill would have an adverse impact on matters reserved to Westminster.[2]

Unlike at Westminster, where Royal Assent is essentially automatic,[3] the Scotland Act 1998 created a formal mechanism for withholding Royal Assent to Scottish legislation. Strictly speaking, it’s not a veto: the Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament simply doesn’t submit the Bill to the King. There are several situations in which Assent might be withheld, such as when the UK Supreme Court rules that legislation is ultra vires.[4]

However, this case involves section 35 of the Scotland Act. It allows the Scottish Secretary to block…

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