In its manifesto, Moving Scotland Forward, the SNP both defends its record in government and makes proposals for building on this record. It argues the best way to protect Scotland and to advance our interests is for people to use both their votes for the SNP.
There is a remarkable consensus among most Scottish political parties on many LGBTI issues. There are however some differences between the various manifestos, so it is important to look at the detail of what Moving Scotland Forward says.
Most parties agree there is a need to reform gender recognition legislation and the need for greater protection for intersex people. The SNP is no different, and in its manifesto it points out that its equal marriage legislation “allows married transgender people to obtain a full Gender Recognition Certificate and stay married.” It commits the party to reviewing and reforming the law “so it’s in line with international best practice for people who are transgender or intersex.” No further details are given.
It also refers to new protocols for those who want gender reassignment which it states have “provided a clearer and consistent treatment pathway that is equitable, effective and patient-focussed” and promises to improve the protocols. However, it doesn’t explain what these improvements will be.
In the section on education, the SNP acknowledges that bullying remains a problem and it expects all “new guidance and promoted teachers and eventually all teachers” to receive training to help them tackle “prejudice-based bullying”. No timescale is given for this, but funding “where required” is promised. The party supports “an inclusive approach to sex and relationship education” but provides no details on what this appraoch might be and whether it will apply to all schools. It also expresses its belief that young people should be able to “make informed choices about their gender and sexual identity” and they should supported in this. Again, there’s little in the way of specifics -something that has already been criticised by campaigners.
The TIE Campaign, which is pressing for inclusive education in all schools, have expressed their disapproval of the SNP’s strategy and have claimed it doesn’t go far enough. A spokesperson for TIE said: “Despite reassurances prior to this manifesto’s release that the party would be further than umbrella equalities training, unfortunately they have not done this.”
They continued: “It is yet to be seen what is meant by ‘equalities training’ but a strategy to tackle homo/bi/transphobia must ensure any teacher training is specific to LGBT+ issues. This is what we have been campaigning for, and while we are glad to see the Scottish Greens and the Liberal Democrats have adopted our aims, it is disappointing that the SNP [have made no firm commitment]. It is not necessarily what the membership expected when they supported our campaign [st the SNP’s conference]…while we welcome the party’s willingness to work with us, they must cooperate and go further, or else risk simply paying lip service to the idea of LGBT+ inclusive education.”
On hate crime, the SNP sees police training as being the key. Whereas this is essential, there are other things not mentioned by the SNP: for example, there is no mention of funding support for those who are victims of hate crime. Recent workshops run by the Equality Network have shown that some LGBTI people are not sure what a hate crime is or how they should report incidents. The SNP manifesto makes no reference to these issues.
Sport is an area where people still regularly experience homophobia and transphobia, as demonstrated by recent incidents in Scottish football and cricket. The SNP commits itself to working with sports governing bodies to address these issues.
On HIV, the SNP promises it will support research into preventative strategies, including looking at PrEP (Pre Exposure Prophylaxis), a way of reducing the risk of HIV transmission by taking medication every day. PrEP is not currently available on the NHS in Scotland, despite calls from activists and voluntary organisations.
There are two notable absences from the SNP manifesto.
Firstly, nothing is said on ending the ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood, despite the shortage of blood and blood products.
Secondly, there is nothing in the international section of the manifesto on LGBTI rights abroad. In Scotland, as in much of western Europe, we have made massive strides towards equality in recent years. However, there are still many parts of the world where some or all LGBTI activities are criminalised, where employers are allowed to discriminate against us, where service providers are allowed to refuse us service and where homophobic and transphobic violence remains common. Thirty-nine Commonwealth countries still criminalise homosexuality, and one – Brunei – still retains the death penalty. Recently, several states in the USA have introduced discriminatory legislation, including North Carolina that bars transgender people from using toilets of the gender they identify as and Mississippi which allows service providers to use religious belief to discriminate against LGBTI people. Some statement, however brief, on international LGBTI issues would have been useful and signalled the party’s intention.
There is much that is positive within Moving Scotland Forward, but these absences, and the lack of detail in some areas, represent missed opportunities.
Finally, no matter how good a party’s manifesto may be, its implementation depends on action by those elected. Most, but not all, SNP candidates have a good record on LGBTI issues. If you are in doubt where your SNP candidates stand on any of these issues, be sure to ask them.