The candidates for leader and deputy leader of Scottish Labour have agreed to speak to KaleidoScot, answering questions in respect to what they aim to do to support LGBTI rights and further equality in Scotland.
Today, Sarah Boyack MSP – who is contesting the Scottish Labour leadership with Jim Murphy and Neil Findlay – tells us what her priorities should be if she is elected to succeed Johann Lamont.
KaleidoScot: What would you do to tackle homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in school?
Sarah: The levels of bullying in our schools should worry us all. Tackling the high levels of homophobic bullying needs leadership from teachers and proper guidance from the Scottish Government. I’d want to see evidence that young people are better protected from bullying and that that our teachers are trained and equipped to challenge the attitudes underlying bullying in general and homophobic bullying in particular.
KaleidoScot: Would you support compulsory sexual and relationship education (SRE) in all schools (including faith based)?
Sarah: We need to make sure that the issue is properly covered in teacher training courses so that new teachers have the knowledge required and that CPG courses for existing teachers include positive examples and references for inclusion in schools.
KaleidoScot: Would you require Westminster to devolve equality legislation?
Sarah: I was a member of Labour’s Devolution Commission. We recommended that enforcement of equalities legislation should be devolved. Although I support an equalities framework across the UK I believe that on many devolved issues there is not sufficient attention to the implementation of equalities legislation on issues that are devolved to the Scottish Parliament. Once the Smith Commission reports I think it would be a good time for LGBT communities to think through what the priorities are for using the powers the Scottish Parliament has and will gain and what issues you want to focus on at the UK level in the upcoming elections. See my answer to Q6
KaleidoScot: Would you like to see Scotland able to handle its own asylum cases, specially a more progressive policy towards LGBTI refugees?
Sarah: I’m less concerned about who administers asylum cases than whether people are treated fairly and with dignity. We need to campaign for a better understanding of the dangerous circumstances for people in LGBTI communities in many countries and that the personal consequences of being open about your identity can lead to persecution and imprisonment.
KaleidoScot: ECtHR has helped champion LGBTI rights in the UK, but what would you do if a Westminster government decided to scrap the Human Rights act and its contingency on the European courts?
Sarah: I’m a strong supporter of the European Convention on Human Rights. Our priority should be to campaign against the current suggestion that the UK Government scrap the Human Rights Act which Labour introduced and make it’s retention an issue in the UK General Election next May.
KaleidoScot: How do you intend to work with other parties in the Scottish parliament to develop a specific Scottish approach to LGBTI equality?
Sarah: As a Labour MSP I’m proud of the role of the Labour Party in promoting and supporting equalities legislation over the last decade. I was in Donald Dewar’s Cabinet when we abolished Section 2A and I’m proud of that decision. As Labour Leader I’d be keen that we continue to provide practical support to improve the lives of the LGBTI community.
We’ve got three options, firstly asking for work to be carried out by the Equalities Committee to conduct an inquiry on the issue. Secondly networking informally possibly by holding a meeting inviting those MSPs and interested groups who are interested to sit down and discuss the best way to move forward. Thirdly, to use our network of Cross Party Groups to raise the issue.
We now have 87 CPGs (with 128 MSPs). Of those groups we have one on International Development and one on Human Rights – both of which would lend themselves to a discussion. We’ve also got 15 groups which focus in different countries or regions. It would be interesting to talk to the Convenors of each of those groups to see if they would be prepared to host a discussion on LGBT equalities issues.
KaleidoScot: Would you ensure that foreign aid is targeted to organisations and projects that support human rights including LGBTI human rights, and not to organisations or direct to governments, that do not?
Sarah: I’ve said that I support a progressive foreign policy. As Scottish Labour Leader I’d want to ensure that the Scottish Government would play a positive role on the issue of equality of treatment for LGBT communities in our international development work for example in our work with Malawi. As Scottish Labour Leader I’d add my voice to ensure that when the Millennium Development Goals are replaced that revised health and education objectives ensure that there is no discrimination against LGBT communities in developing countries so that they get proper access to services that they are currently denied.
I thought that the establishment of Pride House sent a powerful message of solidarity to LBGT athletes and those involved in promoting sports across the Commonwealth this summer.
We have LGBT UK citizens travelling abroad whether as tourists, working in business or on aid and development missions and there are strong human rights and economic arguments to make the point to the host countries they work in about the benefits of those connections.