KaleidoScot asks the two contestants for the Scottish Labour leadership some questions about LGBTI rights, in our second interview, we speak with Kezia Dugdale.
Dugdale, who is an MSP for the Lothian constituency, says transgender and intersex rights are an urgent priority, and she is committed to compulsory RSHPE. See how she answers our questions below.
KaleidoScot: What have you done to promote LGBTI rights during your political career?
I’ve been a strong supporter of Equal Marriage since 2005 when the original campaign for marriage equality in Scotland was launched. I worked for Edinburgh University Student’s Association at the time as a welfare and campaigns adviser. I worked directly to support student secure “independent” status for their funding after being thrown out of their parental home for coming out and I supported the development of a number of liberation campaigns at the time and wider campaigns including lobbying for hate crime legislation to include LGBT people.
In parliament I was Chair of the Cross Party Group on Sexual Health and Blood Borne Viruses, undertaken substantial work on Cyberbullying and supported the work of Stonewall against bullying in schools.
KaleidoScot: What do you think the main challenges for LGBTI rights will be over the next few years?
I think the key legislative challenges lie in transgender and intersex rights, where we still have work to do to remove unequal treatment under the law. I support the Equality Network and Scottish Transgender Alliance Equal Recognition campaign which is calling for those remaining obstacles in law to be removed. But as the Equality Network’s recent Scottish LGBT Equality Report shows, legislative equality is not enough. LGBTI Scots are facing discrimination and harassment in their daily lives, and we need to change hearts and minds to help reduce prejudice and build a society that keeps LGBTI folk safe and fairly treated. The key challenge is how we do that, and I think one of the major routes is through education. Nobody is born homophobic or transphobic. Education and the setting of a good example by those in leadership roles is how we can aim to ensure the coming generations grow up without learning irrational hate.
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).
As Scottish Labour leader I won’t be making manifesto pledges by edict. I want to include Scottish Labour members fully in our policy development process. However, as part of that process I will argue for LGBTI equality and support the inclusion of reform of gender recognition law in the next Scottish Labour manifesto.
KaleidoScot: Would you support legalising mixed-sex civil partnerships so that they are open and equal to all?
Yes, I argued in favour of this during the Equal Marriage debate, and I will continue to argue in the future for civil partnership to be made available to mixed sex couples. I do not think the law should discriminate.
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?
Scottish Labour has been leading the attempts to increase equality powers in the Scotland Bill. I know those efforts continue and I fully support them. I am optimistic that we will see movement on this.
KaleidoScot: How do you plan to make schools, and education, more LGBTI inclusive?
Our aim must be for every school day, for every pupil and staff member, to be free of homophobia, biphobia and transphobia. We are not there yet. A key approach to help achieve this aim is in the anti-bullying education done by groups like LGBT Youth Scotland. I also support pupil-led anti-bullying and support initiatives in schools across the country. Schools should be given the resources to enable these initiatives, and to provide accessible information and support to pupils, parents and staff.
KaleidoScot: Would you make RSHPE obligatory teaching subject in Scottish schools?
Yes. Young people should have the right to evidence-based, inclusive education on relationships, sexual health and parenthood. I think opposition to RSHPE is based on a misunderstanding of what is taught. We must engage with parents to ensure that the clear benefits of RSHPE are well understood. I also worked very closely with Caledonia Youth, who provided dedicated sexual health services for young people, and I strongly believe we should support the provision of sexual health services specifically for young people.
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?
As I mentioned above, I strongly support anti-bullying education in schools, as I think this is the route to reducing homophobia and transphobia in society. I support remote reporting initiatives to increase the proportion of hate crimes reported to police, since too many still go unreported. I think we need careful monitoring of the implementation of anti-hate crime legislation and the use of aggravations in the prosecution of offences. We have a good legal structure, but it’s not always clear that all parts of the justice system are utilising the tools available.
KaleidoScot: What would a Labour-led government in Edinburgh do to provide leadership on LGBTI rights and equality?
I think the recent equal marriage legislative process gives a great example of how our Parliament can come together to deliver LGBTI equality across party lines. In government, Labour will seek consensus on equality issues. Ever since Labour MSPs spearheaded the repeal of Section 28 against fierce opposition, we have recognised the importance of finding cross-party consensus to take on such battles. I will continue to work constructively with those from other parties on issues where we agree.
I would also ensure that making the case for equal rights abroad would be integrated into any and all international development work that the Scottish Government would undertake.
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?
NHS waiting times have consistently missed targets across Scotland for too long. We need to invest in and protect all of our NHS. We need to look at how best to improve waiting times for gender reassignment treatment. I know that delays can have a very damaging effect, and I am keen to ensure that necessary resources are provided to ensure treatment is provided in a timely and efficient manner.
A recent survey from Stonewall demonstrates the wider issues in the health service regarding attitudes to LGBTI people. It demonstrates there’s still a huge amount of work to do in this area.
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?
I have written on numerous occasions about the need for the Parliament to look like the country it seeks to represent. That means having a diverse range of backgrounds, ages, races, religions and sexuality.
I support quotas as a means to achieve this and am a founding member of the current Women 5050 campaign.
Labour has always led the way on gender equality and across the UK, Labour’s record on LGBT politicians is very strong. From Chris Smith to the late David Cairns. Chris Bryant to Angela Eagle, there are numerous role models.
Labour also has an active LGBT labour network which encourages and promotes LGBT people to stand. As well as providing training and support networks, they also provide financial assistance to candidates who face barriers within the political system.
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?
I think the Proud Study shows that PrEP can be a very effective preventative measure for specific target groups. I hope it can be made available to appropriate groups as quickly as possible, and would support action to achieve that.
Ballots for the Scottish Labour leadership contest closes on the 14 of August, with results announced the following day.