Ayrshire politicians have expressed their disappointment with the UK government’s decision to block Scotland’s Gender Recognition Reform Bill – despite it passing by an overwhelming majority.

While the bill - which would have been influential for trans rights in Scotland - passed by 86 to 39 votes, it was overturned by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on January 17 as he employed Section 35 of the Scotland Act.

This allows him to stop a bill gaining royal assent if he believes it would have “an adverse effect on the operation of the law as it applies to reserved matters.”

The use of Section 35 – which has never been used before - has received criticism from across the political spectrum for its impact on Scotland as a devolved nation and on trans rights.

SNP MP for Central Ayrshire Philippa Whitford said: “Having the Secretary of State for Scotland veto a bill passed by 2/3 of MSPs in the Scottish Parliament, is unprecedented.

“He said the bill could be modified to make it acceptable, but the UK Government did not contribute any suggestions during the six years of consideration of this reform nor did he clarify what those modifications were.

“Despite the fact that Gender Recognition is a devolved policy area, half of the supposed 'adverse effects' listed by the Scottish Secretary of State, simply come down to having different laws north and south of the border - this attacks the basic principle of devolution.”

The bill was created by the SNP and Scottish Green Party but received backing from Scottish Labour and the Scottish Liberal Democrats.

The bill would have allowed trans people to legally be able to change their gender from age 16, live as their gender for three months rather than two years, and not require a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria.

Katy Clark, Scottish Labour MSP for West Scotland, said: “A Section 35 order is not the way to deal with issues with this piece of legislation.

"The UK Government should have raised issues it had with this legislation and whether it would contravene UK-wide law several months ago.

"Many of the concerns which are being raised about the Bill relate to the operation of the Equality Act, which is reserved. The Bill only deals with the process of obtaining a gender recognition certificate, not the consequences of having one.

"The Secretary of State has said there is a version of this Act which the UK Government could support, so there needs to be clarity on what that looks like."

Politicians who did not support the bill, including the SNP MSP Ruth Maguire, remained critical of the decision to utilise section 35.

Ruth Maguire said: “The UK Government’s decision to block the GRR Bill voted for by a majority of the Scottish Parliament highlights the frailty of the devolution settlement and the democratic deficit that is part of the current constitutional set up.

“There are of course, as with everything mixed views within our community about this particular bill. “However, the principle is important; If people in Scotland, want their parliament to be able to legislate unimpeded by a Conservative Government in Westminster that they didn’t vote for then the solution is for Scotland to become a normal independent country with all the power and responsibility that entails.”

Conservative politician Jamie Greene – who supported the bill despite his party taking a stance against it – also expressed that he was “disappointed” in the decision.

West Scotland MSP Jamie Greene said: “The UK Government has every prerogative to exercise this power based on the legal advice it deems to be suitable.

“It comes as little surprise to most folk however, given that I voted in favour of the legislation at Stage 3 having a free vote on the matter, that I am disappointed in that decision and it is not one I can support.

“This must be a legal dispute which is settled, not a quasi-debate on the constitution or the substance of the Bill itself.

“I hope that at some point soon we can offer the trans community some reassurance that much needed and long overdue changes to gender recognition will come to pass.”

Green MSP Ross Greer supported the bill alongside his other party members and condemned the blocking of the Gender Recognition Act.

He said: “This is a disgraceful attack on trans people in North Ayrshire and beyond. It is also an attack on our Parliament and Scottish democracy.

“Last month MSPs of all political persuasions voted overwhelmingly for gender recognition reform.

“To see a reactionary Tory government trying to block or overturn it is nothing short of outrageous, and we will resist them every step of the way.

“The last few months have been particularly distressing for trans people in North Ayrshire.

“I will always stand with the trans community. My Green colleagues and I will do all that we can to deliver this long overdue reform and defeat this increasingly extremist Westminster government."

Despite opposing the bill, MP Patricia Gibson criticised the UK Government for their use of Section 35.

The SNP MP for North Ayrshire & Arran said: “Before the Gender Recognition Act was presented to the Scottish Parliament, it was approved by the Presiding Officer following advice from the Lord Advocate of Scotland, that the provisions of the Bill were within the competence of the Scottish Parliament.

“Despite my own deep concerns about aspects of this legislation, for the UK Government to overrule the Scottish Parliament on any devolved issue sets a dangerous precedent.

“Elected representatives in the Scottish Parliament are answerable to their electorate, not to the UK Government.

“The dialogue about this legislation will undoubtedly continue, but it is for the people of Scotland to continue that dialogue for themselves.”

SNP MSP Kenneth Gibson opposed the Gender Recognition Act and voted against the bill but spoke against the use of Section 35.

He said: “In 24 years of devolution, the use of a Section 35 order is the first time the UK Government has ever tried to block Scottish legislation this way by simply overriding the Scottish Parliament.

“Regardless of where people stand on the issue of gender recognition legislation - I voted against it - the First Minister is absolutely right when she says that moves to block Scottish laws by this route is an affront to democracy.

“This is just the latest in a pattern of behaviour from a UK Government which routinely tramples on decisions made at Holyrood, fails to seek consent on legislation which impacts devolved areas.”

Members of the public have also voiced their anger at the decision with a protest planned for Glasgow on Saturday January 21.