KaleidoScot asks the two contestants for the Scottish Labour leadership some questions about LGBTI rights, first we speak with Ken Macintosh.
Macintosh, who is an MSP for the Eastwood constituency, in East Renfrewshire, says he is committed to LGBTI equality, and tackling homophobia. See how he answers our questions below.
KaleidoScot: What have you done to promote LGBTI rights during your political career?
During my 16 years as an MSP I have consistently fought for LGBTI rights and continue to do so. One of the very first issues I ever dealt with as a new MSP was to face down the furore that erupted as we tried to repeal section 28 (also known as clause 2a) of the Local Government Act. You may not remember, but that was a nasty vindictive campaign against equality in which Labour MSPs were targeted by a well-funded and vocal opposition. I was proud to stand my ground and help ensure one of the first pieces of legislation passed by the Scottish Parliament was to end this homophobic discrimination.
I have never wavered in all the years since and the many campaigns that have followed to engage with organisations like the Equality Network and Stonewall Scotland and to stand up for equality and LGBTI rights.
KaleidoScot: What do you think the main challenges for LGBTI rights will be over the next few years?
The most recent, the equal marriage campaign, has been another success but in some ways these legislative victories disguise the real challenge – and that is tackling misinformation, prejudice and stigma. Our society is still scarred by ill-informed and often hostile attitudes to LGBTI people, attitudes which not only discriminate but which in too many cases lead to physical assault. I believe this is where we need to channel our energies.
KaleidoScot: Would you be willing to make a manifesto pledge to reform gender recognition laws in Scotland? (gender recognition is a devolved issue, although the original Gender Recognition Act 2004 was passed at Westminster due to a Legislative Consent motion).
Yes. If there are still legal barriers to equality, then we should all work to overcome them.
KaleidoScot: Would you support legalising mixed-sex civil partnerships so that they are open to all equally?
KaleidoScot: Would you support the full devolution of equality law to the Scottish Parliament as some equality charities have been calling for, but for which the Scotland Bill currently doesn’t provide?
Yes, although this is not as clear cut a decision as it might be on other issues. At the moment, the political environment in Scotland is fairly progressive but this has not always been so – and might not always be so into the future. The Scotland I was brought up in was a pretty conservative and reactionary place and Scots are as capable of being as bigoted as anyone else in the UK. I wonder whether one of the drivers behind our new found liberalism has been the motivation to show we are ahead/different to the rest of the UK? It is still to be welcomed and so long as we have a base line of equality below which we will not fall, then I would be happy to be more of a pioneer on equality issues.
KaleidoScot: How do you plan to make schools, and education, more LGBTI inclusive?
Being young and gay in Scotland is still for too many a traumatic and scarring experience, with homophobic bullying the norm in school playgrounds the length and breadth of the country and unfortunately with very little positive messaging in the formal curriculum. The curriculum itself is not politically controlled but the government could do more to fund anti-bullying initiatives and to promote the education and training of staff in LGBTI awareness.
KaleidoScot: Would you make RSHPE obligatory teaching subject in Scottish schools?
The curriculum is not compulsory in Scotland but as stated above, I would do what I can to support and encourage RSHPE.
KaleidoScot: What proposals do you have to deal with hate crime in Scotland, and specifically towards the LGBTI community? Also, how can homophobic attitudes be challenged?
We have already pledged to toughen the law on homophobic and transphobic hate crime, but as I mentioned earlier the bigger challenge is changing negative attitudes in the first place. Education, government sponsored social advertising and political leadership all have a role to play. Beyond Scotland, Labour is pledged to promote LGBTI awareness internationally and to work towards the decriminalisation of homosexuality around the world.
KaleidoScot: What would a Labour-led government in Edinburgh do to provide leadership on LGBTI rights and equality?
I have always been proud of the way Labour have championed equality but we know that there is still more we can do. I would like to see Scottish Labour use existing powers and those coming as part of the Scotland Bill to help build a fairer society where people are recognised for their contribution. For example, there are issues to do with discrimination in the private rented sector which we could do more to address.
KaleidoScot: What can be done to improve NHS provision to transgender people? Will you take action to reduce the currently excessive waiting times for gender reassignment treatment?
Yes, excessive waiting times for any treatments in the NHS are unacceptable and provision for transgender people is no exception.
KaleidoScot: The recent intake of 56 SNP MPs included 7 LGBTI members. Scottish Labour, however, has never had any openly LGBTI MSPs in Holyrood. Why do you think this is, do you find it acceptable and what do you think Labour should do to improve its candidate diversity?
Scottish Labour welcomes members from all backgrounds and, for a party that champions LGBTI issues, it is surprising that we don’t currently have any openly LGBTI MSPs. It is clear we should be doing more in the way of positive action to encourage prospective LGBTI candidates to come forward.
KaleidoScot: Would you do ensure that PrEP is made available to men who have sex with men as a prevention strategy given the Proud Study results?
Given the findings of the Proud Study, the NHS in Scotland needs to be explain why it is not making PrEP available.
Ballots for the Scottish Labour leadership contest closes on the 14 of August, with results announced the following day.