GENDER: National LGBT+ organisations call on the FM candidates to continue with commitments to LGBT+ equality

By Lucy Ashton

National LGBT+ organisations in Scotland (Equality Network, Scottish Trans, LEAP Sports Scotland, LGBT Youth Scotland, Stonewall Scotland and LGBT Health and Well-being) have written today to each of the candidates standing to be next First Minister, to ask that they commit to honouring existing Scottish Government commitments to improve LGBT+ people’s lives, and to continue progressing LGBT+ equality.

The letter asks candidates to confirm their support for five existing commitments of the Scottish Government:

  1. Honour the Scottish Government’s commitment to ban conversion practices through a bill introduced this year, to protect LGBT+ people from attempts to change their sexual orientation or gender identity, which can cause great harm
  1. Keep the GRR Bill on the Parliament’s books, and commit to seeking the revocation of the section 35 order whether via the courts or by agreement with the next UK Government, to allow trans people access to a fairer and simpler process for legal recognition of who they truly are
  1. Honour the Scottish Government’s commitment to improve the health of LGBT+ people, through refreshing and improving the mental health strategy and work to prevent self-harm, and by continuing to fund transformation of NHS gender identity services for trans people, so that LGBT+ people in Scotland are able to live happy and healthy lives.Humza Yousaf and Ash Regan and Katie Forbes (above right, , candidates to replace Nicola Sturgeon as First Minister.
  1. Show leadership on improving attitudes towards LGBT+ people, at a time when hate crime targeting people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity is on the rise and public discourse, particularly around trans people, is increasingly polarised, to ensure Scotland is a safe and welcoming country for all
  1. Continue work on implementing LGBT-inclusive education, to ensure that young people can grow up knowing they will be accepted and supported for who they are, can see their families reflected and included in their learning, and to reduce LGBT+ young people’s experiences of bullying because of their sexual orientation or gender identity

Tim Hopkins, Director of Equality Network said: “We appreciate that there will be many issues for the next First Minister to deal with. As LGBT+ organisations, our concern is that the existing commitments by the Scottish Government, which value and support Scotland’s LGBT+ people, will be continued by the new First Minister. Will the candidates confirm that, or is there a risk that those commitments will be dropped?”

Dr Rebecca Crowther, Policy Co-ordinator at Equality Network said: “Scotland deserves a leader who will continue pushing for equality and human rights in all aspects of life. We need a leader who will do everything they can to ensure we are all free from harm and to be who we are. We must see our humanity and human rights reflected in legislation; they must challenge section 35, and deliver gender recognition reform, we must push for better accessible healthcare, tackle rising hate crime and, we must finally end harmful conversion practices that have devastating long term effects. We need a First Minister who has the strength of leadership, and the willing, to achieve all of this.”

Vic Valentine, Manager of Scottish Trans said:  “While for now this might be a contest about who leads the SNP, ultimately whoever is successful will go on to lead the country. LGBT+ people are a part of Scotland’s communities, and trans people are your friends, family, colleagues and neighbours. It is absolutely vital that the future First Minister takes decisions in the interests of everyone, and rather than seeing protecting and improving trans people’s lives and rights as an optional add-on, understands that doing so is a small but important part of leading a Scotland in which everyone can thrive.”

Meanwhile, on the final day of LGBT+ History Month, Scottish Liberal Democrats have called on the SNP/Green Government to take forward a series of action points which will enhance LGBT+ inclusion, such as expanding training for NHS and school staff.

Scottish Liberal Democrats are calling for the Scottish Government to:  

  • Fully implement the recommendations of the LGBT+ Inclusive Education Working Group, underpinned by new statutory guidance on the conduct of relationships, sexual health and parenthood education for schools.  
  • Ensure that all NHS healthcare professionals can meet the needs of their LGBT+ patients by incorporating training that addresses barriers faced due to both sexual orientation and gender identity.  
  • Commit to funding mandatory training for mental health professionals, including front line CAMHS staff, on supporting LGBT+ people, and ensure mental health and suicide prevention training delivered to NHS staff is inclusive.  
  • Ensure that LGBT+ people can access welcoming and inclusive social care services, by providing targeted training for staff with a focus on those working in residential care settings.  
  • Ensure that NHS reproductive health and fertility services recognise, and address, barriers and health inequalities faced by LGBT+ people, particularly by lesbian and bisexual women.  

Scottish Liberal Democrat social security spokesperson Caron Lindsay said:  “While LGBT+ History month marks a time for us all to come together and celebrate progress towards equality, it’s also a chance to reflect on the work still to be done.

“The year’s theme was ‘Behind the Lens,’ and I think that theme really captures what we’re trying to do. Recognising what has not always been visible and what has often been denied.

“Across all corners of society, LGBT+ people still face a host of barriers, some very visible and some not so visible. From health to education, even the smallest differences can have the biggest impact on the well-being of those around us.

“There are simple steps that the Scottish Government could take. For example, helping healthcare and social care workers recognise LGBT+ specific issues and know how to address them would give patients the confidence that they are receiving the best possible care. Likewise, the Scottish Parliament was right to back plans for LGBT+ inclusive education but the implementation of this has been patchy at best. It’s time for a redoubled effort.

“I hope that over the course of this month we have considered the challenges facing the LGBT+ community as we continue our fight for a fair, progressive and equal Scotland.”

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