Nicola Sturgeon said ‘all of us have a duty to stand up for equality’
By Lucy Ashton
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said she stands “full square” behind transgender people, as she indicated the Government will look to update the protocol for gender reassignment.
During FMQs, Sturgeon, pictured right, expressed her support for the trans community, adding that “all of us have a duty to stand up for equality, however difficult that may be on occasion”.
Sturgeon acknowledged that work is needed on the waiting times for appointments at Scotland’s four gender identity clinics, with patients currently facing a possible two-and-a-half-year wait to be seen.
Following a question from Green MSP Gillian Mackay, Sturgeon said: “I absolutely stand here full square behind trans people in the discrimination and stigma and prejudice that they face and in the ongoing battle for equality for which they have as much of an entitlement as anyone else in our society.
“We always have to protect and continue to win and re-win the progress we have made.”
The First Minister said it is up to the people of Scotland to “make sure that our progress as a country continues to be in the forward direction and that Scotland is a place where everybody feels valued and respected and able to be who they are”.
She added: “That’s the country I want to not just lead, but the country I want to live in as a citizen, and I think we’ve all got work to do to make sure it is reality and not just rhetoric.”
On what the Scottish Government plans to do to improve gender identity care in Scotland, the First Minister told MSPs: “We’re working with NHS Scotland to improve gender identity services, including reducing waiting times – which I think everybody recognises are far too long – and that causes additional trauma and anxiety.
“We will shortly be writing to the national gender identity clinical network for Scotland to ask them to review and update the gender reassignment protocol.”
SNP leader – ‘We’re working with NHS Scotland to improve gender identity services.’
Meanwhile, Scottish LGBTI equality charity the Equality Network have today welcomed changes in blood donation rules which will remove the deferment period for some gay and bisexual men from donating blood and replace it with an individual risk assessment regardless of sexual orientation. This important new policy will take effect on World Blood Donor Day will allow thousands of gay and bisexual men, previously excluded, to donate for the first time.
Scott Cuthbertson, Development Manager, said: “I’ve been campaigning on the issue of blood donation for gay and bisexual men for over 15 years, and for me this was never about a right to give, but the fact that there were many gay and bisexual men that could do so safely. I’m pleased the evidence, assessed by experts, has concluded that to be true, and that many thousands of gay and bisexual men will be able to donate their blood and help save lives.
“Today, during Pride Month, I’m proud to donate my blood for the first time alongside many other gay and bisexual men across the UK as the rules which we long felt to be unnecessarily exclusionary have been replaced with a person-by-person risk assessment.”
The changes, which come into effect across England and Wales as well as Scotland today and NI later in the year, mean that UK blood services will now assess donor eligibility on a person-by-person basis instead of applying across-the-board restrictions. From today, SNBTS will ask all donors the same questions about their recent sexual activity to ensure blood safety. This will allow previously excluded potential donors (including low-risk sexually active gay men) to give blood.
Craig Spalding, SNBTS Director, said: “These changes follow an evidence-based review by the UK-wide FAIR (For the Assessment of Individualised Risk) steering group. FAIR was set up at the request of the Department of Health and Social Care. The steering group included representatives from the four UK blood services, LGBT+ groups, medical and scientific experts, and patient and donor representatives. FAIR concluded that the new donor selection system will maintain the UK’s status as having one of the safest blood supplies in the world. The FAIR recommendations were designed by epidemiology, sexual health and Infectious disease experts.
“The recommendations were accepted in full by the Scottish and UK governments in December 2020. I am proud to implement these changes in SNBTS, and I would like to extend my thanks to all current and future donors in Scotland.”
The Equality Network have been involved in campaigning for fair blood donation rules since 2005 and over that time have worked constructively with the SNBTS, most recently as part of the FAIR steering group. The lifetime ban on men who have sex with men (MSM) was lifted in 2011, the 12 month deferment was replaced with a three month deferment in 2017.