Yes LGBT, the pro-independence referendum LGBTI group has called on Better Together to give concrete guarantees about the future of LGBTI rights in Scotland in the event that Scotland votes against independence.
According to the letter along with the Rainbow Paper published on Monday, pro-independence campaigners argue that LGBTI rights would be better served in the context of an independent Scotland.
Better Together however have replied that the arguments and vision outlined in the letter and paper are misleading and flawed, outlining instead why staying within the UK would serve better the interests of LGBTI Scots.
In a public letter to Alistair Darling, the head of Better Together campaign, activists called for answers to 10 “simple questions” about the risks to LGBTI equality if Scotland remains part of the UK.
The questions seek “concrete guarantees” in the event of a No vote on a range of issues including: Whether equality law will be devolved to Scotland, whether the UK Government will scrap the Human Rights Act and diminish the Equality Act against Scotland’s will, whether the UK Government will cut Scotland’s block grant and funding to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, and what guarantees there are that the UK’s asylum system will be reformed so that it protects LGBTI people from persecution instead of treating them in a degrading manner.
Stewart McDonald, Co-Convenor of Yes LGBT, told KaleidoScot: “LGBTI people want concrete guarantees on the simple questions we have about the threats to equality in Scotland if we remain in the UK
“Alistair Darling has rightly been asking lots of questions during the independence debate but it’s about time he started giving some answers himself.
“LGBTI people want to know what guarantees there are that Scotland will be given the powers and resources it needs to secure greater equality, and that their rights will not come under attack from the Tory-led government which has already made clear its intentions to repeal or diminish equality and human rights laws.
“These are simple questions that are entirely within the power of the No campaign parties to answer – they could give clear guarantees right now, the question is why won’t they, and I think we all know the answer to that.”
Responding to the letter, Daniel Donaldson, a Scottish Equalities Lawyer told KaleidoScot: “The ‘Rainbow Paper’ issued by YES Scotland is misleading people.
“It is important to show a balance here and to not mislead LGBTI people into thinking that the UK is all bad and that an Independent Scotland will be all good, when it comes to protecting and protecting LGBTI human rights.
“It is also disingenuous to say that Scotland has consistency been more progressive than Westminster in terms of LGBTI equality.
“One fatal flaw in the YES LGBTI argument is that YES Scotland want to abolish the UK Supreme Court. Why would anyone want to abolish a Court which has affirmed and defended LGBTI rights, first in terms of LGBTI asylum and refugee status, and then again in terms upholding the non-discrimination provisions of the Equality Act when faced with several challenges by powerful lobby groups.
“This position contrasts with Scotland, where the Scottish Government, under the SNP leadership, sought to water down and exclude Roman Catholic adoption agencies from Equality Law to allow them to discriminate against same-sex couples. Contrast this with that of the UK, which refused to amend the Sexual Orientation Regulations, despite Scottish Government pressure to do so.
“It is also important to remember, that a written constitution, which specifically mentions LGBTI people is no guarantee that LGBTI rights will be protected. The South African constitution mentioned LGBT people, but when it came to considering same-sex marriage, the Government only changed the law after a Court Challenge.
“Without the UK Supreme Court, which currently protects the rights of LGBTI people, across the UK as a whole, a written Scottish Constitution would be meaningless as the Scottish Courts have adopted a critical and highly conservative interpretation of human rights law. Indeed, there was at least one LGBT Asylum case heard in Scotland that failed.
“The UK, having a wide network of Embassies and Consulates across the World has heavily lobbied for LGBT equality. The UK has the standing in the World to take many of the non-LGBTI friendly countries to task over their human rights record, and this has to be acknowledged.
“There is always room for improvement in any constitutional set-up, where equality and human rights are concerned. However, to completely ignore the accomplishments the UK in this field, and to paint everything in such a negative light, it just plain wrong.
“LGBTI people expect more from both sides of the Scottish Independence debate and I would encourage the YES Scotland campaign not to mislead people and be more honest about the advances made in terms of LGBTI equality and human rights in Scotland as part of the UK.”