Leaders of the main political parties in Scotland have outlined their party’s commitments to advancing LGBTI equality following each potential outcome of the Scottish Independence referendum.
The leaders of the SNP, Scottish Labour Party, Scottish Conservatives, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Scottish Green Party, and the Scottish Socialist Party, made the commitments in response to a letter from the Equality Network, seeking guarantees in each scenario of Scotland voting for independence or to remain in the UK, in six areas of law and policy, including the constitution, equality law, public services, foreign affairs, and the asylum system.
In the event that Scotland votes for independence, five of the six parties committed to supporting protections for LGBTI equality in a written constitution, including on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity, and intersex status. The Scottish Conservatives did not make a commitment; with leader Ruth Davidson MSP stating it was “up to the people of Scotland to decide what provisions are included”.
In the event that Scotland votes to remain in the UK, the SNP, Scottish Green Party, and Scottish Socialist Party committed to seeking the devolution of equality law, currently reserved to Westminster. The Liberal Democrats said that power over equality law could potentially be shared between both parliaments as part of a federal UK; the Scottish Labour Party committed to devolving the enforcement of equality law, but not the powers to change the law itself, and the Scottish Conservatives made no commitment but said specifically that equal pension provisions were “best dealt with at a UK level”. Equality law is already fully devolved in Northern Ireland.
Tom French, Policy Coordinator for the Equality Network, stated: “The outcome of the independence referendum has the potential to make a significant impact on LGBTI equality in Scotland, whether through changes to legal protections, powers, resources, policies, or the shape of our public services.
“When voters are being asked to make a choice between two futures for Scotland we think it’s important that we have as much information as possible about the intentions and commitments of the parties that will shape these futures.
“Regardless of the outcome of the referendum the Equality Network will continue to work with parties on all sides of the debate to secure the best deal for LGBTI equality and human rights.”
It is unclear whether the party commitments for or against the devolution of powers over equality law, in the event that Scotland votes to remain in the UK, are final or whether these may change.
In their responses the leaders also made their case for why LGBTI people in Scotland should vote either for independence or to remain in the UK.
Alex Salmond MSP, Leader of the SNP, said; “Independence is a once in a lifetime opportunity to embed and enhance LGBTI rights. With Independence we will be able to enshrine LGBTI equality in a written constitution – ensuring our rights cannot be easily reversed by any government. With a No vote we face the prospect of another Tory government committed to scrapping the Human Rights Act…It’s only with the full powers of an independent country that we can finally secure true equality for LGBTI people and a fairer society for all.”
Johann Lamont MSP, Leader of the Scottish Labour Party, said; “Since the advent of devolution in 1999, huge strides have been made in ending prejudice and discrimination and advancing the rights of LGBTI people and other minority groups in Scotland…whilst we are in no way complacent, we do not believe that anything further could or would be achieved under a different constitutional settlement. But the record of devolution in Scotland, and the Labour Party as the architect of devolution, speaks volumes for what we can achieve in the future.”
The independence referendum will take place on 18th September will the result expected on the 19th.
KaleidoScot is now running its own poll asking specifically LGBTI people if they prefer Scotland to be independent or continue to be part of the United Kingdom.
This KaleidoScot poll can help you focus on the issues that matter to you as an LGBTI voter and also make your voice heard before the 18th September referendum.
Do you think Scotland and LGBTI rights would be served better as an independent country or within the United Kingdom? What are the key issues that matter to you? This is your chance to make your views heard. The poll is open right now and closes on the 11 of September.
The poll is totally anonymous and does not ask you to identify or reveals your identity in any way.
KaleidoScot will publish the results on the 12 September with a detailed analysis.