Campaigners have reacted to the Scottish National Party’s newly announced series of commitments on LGBTI equality, with some expressing support while others have criticised the proposals for not going far enough.
The party has this week unveiled a series of reforms – including reviewing gender recognition laws, training police on hate crime investigation, introducing “refreshed, age-appropriate strategies and resources” to educate children about healthy relationships and improving equality training for teachers. The commitments are part of a package of pledges aimed at addressing “prejudice-based bullying” and to enable young people to make informed choices.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon stated that she wished to see “a renewed focus on areas such as education – both for young people themselves, and those responsible for their emotional and educational wellbeing. I am hopeful that in the next Scottish Parliament, we can build as much consensus on LGBT+ issues as we did in this session – and take another leap forward for equality.”
One organisation welcoming the announcement was the Equality Network. Its director, Tim Hopkins, said: “We welcome these commitments from the SNP, which address some key concerns of LGBTI people, and we hope that the other parties will make strong pledges on LGBTI equality.”
James Morton, who manages the Scottish Transgender Alliance, was particularly pleased about the pledge to review gender recognition law. He said: “We are very pleased to see the SNP pledge to reform gender recognition law for all trans people, in line with international best practice. That would mean enabling people to change the gender on their birth certificate without intrusive medical diagnosis, recognising trans people as the experts on their own identities. It would allow young people to legally change their gender, with parents’ support if under 16. It would also mean the law recognising that some people have a non-binary gender, that is, they are neither men nor women.
“We hope that the other parties will match this commitment and we look forward to working on this with whoever forms the next Scottish Government.”
Nathan Gale, of Non-Binary Scotland – a community group that in addition to campaigning provides social opportunities for non-binary people – also expressed his delight at the promise to reform gender recognition law. They added: “By making [this] commitment… [the SNP] is ensuring that all trans people, no-matter what their gender identity, will be able to be themselves in all aspects of their lives. Trans people who don’t identify as men or women have just as much right to have the gender they identify as recognised and respected as everyone else. I hope that the next Scottish Government will truly aspire to international best practice and provide for a third gender, alongside male and female, to be recognised in Scottish law.”
However, activists from the Time for Inclusive Education (TIE) campaign have claimed the “leap forward” is “less of a leap and more of a stumble”. They have claimed that LGBTI specific teacher training is required, as opposed to the generalised umbrella equalities training that is already being provided.
TIE insists that the next strategy to tackle LGBT-phobia in schools must be the right one, in order to address high rates of suicide and self harm amongst LGBTI school pupils.
A spokesperson for TIE said: “Only very small steps have been taken here regarding education – [the SNP’s] strategy here does not go far enough in protecting LGBT+ young people and this does not reflect the motion that was passed at conference. In order to ensure that our schools are inclusive of LGBT+, teaching staff must receive LGBT+ specific training – what [is being] proposed here is blanket equalities training, which will not do enough.
“Ourselves, SNP Youth and SNP Students expect and hope that the SNP’s manifesto will go much further than this and truly reflect the expectations of the membership who unanimously backed our campaign. If this is the strategy that will be taken into the next parliament, then we still have a very long way to go. We would urge the SNP to work with us on this, because the next strategy has to be the right one.”
The SNP’s manifesto is expected to be published in the coming weeks.