Scotland will move a transgender woman convicted of rape out of an all-female prison after concerns were raised over the safety of other inmates, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said on Thursday.
Isla Bryson was convicted this week of raping two women in 2016 and 2019 when she was a man called Adam Graham, and she has been held initially at Cornton Vale women’s prison in central Scotland, local media reported.
The case comes weeks after the Scottish parliament passed a bill to make it easier for people to change their legal gender, drawing criticism from some women’s rights campaigners who argue that predatory men could use it to access single-sex spaces such as bathrooms.
The British government has since said it will block the legal change because it would have an impact on equality matters across the rest of the country.
“Given the understandable public and parliamentary concern in this case, I can confirm to parliament that this prisoner will not be incarcerated at Cornton Vale women’s prison,” Sturgeon told Scotland’s devolved parliament.
The move comes after campaigners, politicians and a United Nations human rights expert all raised concerns over Bryson being housed in a women’s prison.
“Before the … bill even comes into force, rapists are already exploiting current laws,” Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said in a statement. “We shouldn’t make it any easier for them to attack women.”
Scotland’s bill has deepened a rift with the government of British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in London, with the two already at loggerheads over whether Scotland can hold another independence referendum.
Scotland’s devolved parliament can make its own laws, but the UK can veto legislation if it deems it to interfere with matters within the national jurisdiction. Britain’s move to block the gender bill is the first time it has invoked that power.
The bill, passed in December, made Scotland the first nation of the United Kingdom to back a self-identification process for changing gender, including removing the need for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria and lowering the minimum age to 16 from 18.
Sturgeon has called the UK’s blocking of the bill a “full-frontal attack” on the Scottish Parliament.