Wednesday , 22 May 2019

Souter’s donation irrelevant to the referendum debate

Brian Souter
Brian Souter

As one of the strongest and most vocal critics of Brian Souter and his legacy of his anti-LGBTI campaigns towards keeping Section 28, I find the use of the issue during the Scottish referendum debate to be misleading and unconstructive.

We’ve got to ask ourselves if Brain Souter’s donations has altered anything in the Scottish government’s previous commitment to legislate for LGBTI equality?

The answer of course is no, Scotland has better LGBTI equality laws than the rest of the UK. The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) is far more equal than its counterpart in effect in England and Wales.

In fact Westminster is holding back pension equality for married LGBTI people, which if devolved would have easily been resolved in Scotland.

In term of anti-hate crime laws Scottish legislation treats it exactly in the same severity, as it would punish anti-ethnicity, gender, religious belief, etc, action/speech, again far more equal and advanced than Westminster.

Is Brain Souter’s donation likely to affect legislation or a future constitution? Again that is unlikely, Alex Salmond and a host of other pro-independence politicians have committed themselves to enshrine LGBTI equality in a written Scottish constitution should Scotland become an independent country.

They have also repeatedly committed themselves to a fairer asylum and immigration system towards LGBTI people, which again Westminster has so far been reluctant to do.

It seems to me that his donation to the Scottish National Party (SNP) has nothing to do with his Christian ideology, as it has not affected policies or LGBTI Scots equality legislation.

The Scottish Secular Society (SSS) would challenge any religious privilege that Brian Souter, or any other faith based group or individual have, but we would protect his right as a Christian to express his faith, even his homophobic views, as long as they are not inciting for violence or affect policies.

SSS would support the protection of religion in any constitution with the addition of Article 9 of the European Convention of Human Rights.

We oppose any attempt to limit diversity and sex education in any faith based school or have children segregated along religious or sectarian lines. In fact we think Scotland should have a secular comprehensive national education system with gives equal opportunities and quality education for all, to build a better, more educated, fairer, skilled and progressive country.

We would not shy away to challenge views that attempt to contravene this, for example, today’s remarks by Minister Roseanne Cunningham that sectarian schools will be protected in a forthcoming constitution is nonsense and hyperbole. Such conditions have no place in constitutions and are not included in the interim constitution.

In fact, the SSS can disagree with Souter or religious based views on LGBTI equality but find common grounds like poverty, economic injustice where we can work together; to create a fairer Scotland it becomes an independent.

While Brian Souter is rightfully criticised for attempting to force measures to affect government policies limiting equality, he has so far not had any success, quite the reverse.

What we should and out to fight is any religious privilege and bias affecting a future Scottish state. In my view independence would mean we break with existing such structures, for example the House of Lords, which has religious lords who have consistently held back, watered-down and even derailed previous equality based legislation coming from the House of Commons.

An independent secular Scotland would offer a better future to work with everyone towards equality, including in partnership with faith based groups, while agreeing on many common areas and disagreeing on others. That includes a comprehensive understanding of different faiths and non-faith strands.

About Garry Otton

Garry Otton
Garry Otton is founder of the Scottish Secular Society and author of ‘Religious Fascism: The Repeal of Section 28’. He is also a Scottish LGBTI rights activist and journalist. Born in London, Garry is now based in Glasgow

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