First Minister speaks out following reports of the SNP being ‘unsafe’ for trans people
By Lucy Ashton
Cruel nicknames such as “teddy boys” and “chicks with dicks” are driving members away from the Scottish National Party.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon posted about the issue on Twitter, saying that “on some days silence is not an option” after hearing reports of significant numbers of people leaving the SNP because they do not consider it to be a safe, tolerant place for trans people.
Sturgeon said this is “not acceptable” to her as SNP leader and that trans people have “as much right as any of us to be safe, secure and valued for who they are”.
In the message, which she said was not scripted but “comes from my heart”, Sturgeon said she does not care if people accuse her of being woke and that “sometimes, particularly as a leader, it’s vital to speak up for what is right and against injustice”.
She added: “It grieves me deeply that you’ve reached this conclusion after much soul searching because you consider at this stage the SNP not to be a safe, tolerant or welcoming place for trans people.
“That’s not acceptable to me as SNP leader. I will do everything I can to change that impression and persuade all of you that the SNP is your party and that you should come home where you belong.”
She said there are differences of opinion on gender recognition reform, and that these should be debated “openly and respectfully” but that “no debate can be a cover for transphobia”.
“Transphobia is wrong and we must treat it with the zero tolerance we treat racism or homophobia.
“Those are the principles I want to characterise the SNP and the country that I am privileged to lead.
“They are also the principles and values that I want to underpin the independent Scotland I’ve spent my whole life campaigning for.
“I don’t support that as an end in itself but as a means to a better, fairer, more just Scotland.
“Some will criticise this message, say it doesn’t go far enough or that the words are hollow unless we prove we mean them. I’m determined we will.”
Teddy Hope, who held a high-profile position as a trans officer in the Out For Indy wing of the party before their resignation, told The Herald that the SNP leadership had failed to protect the trans community.
That comes after Teddy, who is non-binary and uses the pronouns “they” and “them”, was verbally abused at a branch meeting of the party while discussing transgender rights.
“There were also shouted comments of men getting access to women/girls in toilets and changing rooms and raping them and the infiltration of LGBTi information in primary schools encouraging children to identify as gay or trans.”
“The atmosphere was such that the convener ended this part of the meeting and asked all of those who were non-members to leave.
“The secretary accompanied the guest speakers out of the room and apologised to them for what had happened.”
Teddy Hope, who held a high-profile position as a trans officer in the Out For Indy wing of the party before their resignation, told The Herald the SNP leadership had failed to protect the trans community.
After Teddy wrote about the abuse on social media, Angus MacLeod, the then-National Secretary of the SNP, initially asked them for details.But Teddy alleges that Mr Macleod stopped corresponding in August, and added that no action has since been taken by the party over the abuse.
“My friends have been complaining about transphobic abuse in the party for years,” Teddy said, “and just haven’t been getting any feedback or response from the party.
“So the fact that headquarters, the National Secretary, finally was willing to listen to my complaint and seemed to be taking it seriously was a big deal.
“I felt like they were going to start taking the issue of transphobia seriously.
“I sent all the information and he said he was investigating, but he just faded out.
“I tried emailing and he didn’t respond.”
Teddy has since contacted Stewart Stevenson MSP, the new National Secretary, about the abuse but has not received a response.
“To be completely honest,” Teddy said, “I think the SNP is now one of the core hubs of transphobia in Scotland.
“It needs to be accountable for its actions and harms it is doing to the trans community. I don’t think the party is at all safe for trans people.
“I can probably count the number of trans people I know who are still active and public-facing in the party on one hand.
“We all share this deep fear of being abused or being stalked and harassed, and it’s terrifying.”
Teddy has now called for the extent of transphobia in the party, as well as the lack of action on complaints, to be investigated.
They said: “I think what we need now from the SNP, at the very least, is a public apology from the leadership from towards the trans community for what they’ve done.
“They need to promise to make the party safe by bringing in a workable definition of transphobia as soon as possible, or else the party will just continue to harm trans people both externally and internally.”
A spokesperson for the SNP said Mr Stevenson was still investigating Teddy’s case.
“The SNP has a proud record on equalities issues, we treat all complaints seriously and we regret to hear of negative experiences of this nature,” they said.
“There is no room for transphobia in the SNP and no room for transphobia in Scotland – and our new National Secretary is continuing to investigate this case.”
Reacting to the news of Teddy’s resignation, John Nicolson MP told The Scotsman that the concerns of trans people in the party “should be taken absolutely seriously” and added that the SNP must not be seen to be “half-hearted” over its championing of trans rights.
He called the abuse suffered by Teddy “absolutely appalling” and said their complaint must be investigated thoroughly.
Instead, he blamed the clash over trans rights on a small “hard core of obsessives online”, who “peddled sinister claims” about the trans community.
“I think for the vast majority of members this issue is not on their radar at all.”
The 59-year-old, who is running to be the Rector of Glasgow University, called the fight for trans rights “the Clause 28 of this generation.”
“The tragic fact is that it is far too easy for women to be abused without the predator going to the trouble of changing their gender.
“This stuff just does not stand up to scrutiny.”
“Scotland has gained a wonderful reputation for welcoming LGBT people,” he added, “but I do think we have to be vigilant.”