On 18th September 2014 Scotland will hold a referendum on whether to become an independent country or to remain part of the UK.
The Equality Network wants to ensure that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people in Scotland have the most information possible about the impact that either outcome could have on LGBTI equality and human rights before casting a vote.
We asked the leaders of the six main political parties in Scotland, on either side of the debate, to outline how their party would ensure continued progress towards LGBTI equality and human rights in each scenario of Scotland voting for independence or voting to remain in the United Kingdom. The responses from all six party leaders can be found below.
Of course it goes without saying that LGBTI people, like everyone else, will have very many reasons for deciding how to vote, but we hope you find this information useful.
The present situation
The Scottish Parliament currently has devolved powers over some, but not all, areas affecting LGBTI equality and human rights:
- It has powers over areas including: justice, family law, education, health, and can decide how it spends its block grant from the UK Government.
- It does not have control over: constitutional issues, equality law, foreign affairs, asylum policy, or the overall level of Scotland’s block grant, all of which remain reserved powers of the UK Parliament.
That’s why the Equality Network wants to see clear commitments from the main parties on either side of the debate (the SNP, Labour, the Conservatives, the Lib Dems, the Greens, and the Scottish Socialist Party), for each outcome, before 18th September.
The impact of each outcome on LGBTI equality and human rights
In the event that Scotland votes to remain in the UK the Equality Network wants to know whether each of the parties will commit to:
- Supporting devolution of equal opportunities powers so that Scotland can protect the progress made on LGBTI equality in recent years and deal with the deficiencies of current equality law
- Ensuring that Scotland is able to commit adequate leadership and resources on efforts to secure LGBTI equality through public services (for example, through the level of Scotland’s block grant)
- Ensuring that Scotland is able to play its part in promoting LGBTI equality and human rights throughout the world
- Supporting the improvement of the UK’s asylum processes so that LGBTI people with a well-founded fear of persecution on grounds of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or intersex status can find asylum in the UK
In the event that Scotland votes for independence the Equality Network wants to know whether each of the parties will commit to:
- Supporting clear protections for LGBTI equality in a written constitution, including specifically on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity, and intersex status
- Ensuring that Scotland commits adequate leadership and resources on efforts to secure LGBTI equality through public services (for example, promoting equality in schools, tackling hate crime etc)
- Ensuring that Scotland has a strong influence promoting LGBTI equality and human rights around the world including through diplomatic efforts and the provision of aid
- Ensuring that Scotland has an progressive asylum system that welcomes LGBTI people seeking asylum from their home country because of a well-founded fear of persecution on grounds of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or intersex status
We asked the parties to explain how their commitments in each of these areas will be met, and why they think LGBTI people should vote either for independence or to remain in the UK, both in terms of LGBTI equality but also the wider case for each outcome.
A full list of the questions we have asked the parties can be found at: LGBTI Equality and the Independence Referendum (PDF)
You can now see the responses from each party below:
- Response from Alex Salmond MSP, on behalf of the Scottish National Party (SNP)
- Response from Johann Lamont MSP, on behalf of the Scottish Labour Party
- Response from Patrick Harvie MSP, on behalf of the Scottish Green Party
- Response from Ruth Davidson MSP, on behalf of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party
- Response from Colin Fox, on behalf of the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP)
- Response from Willie Rennie MSP, on behalf of the Scottish Liberal Democrats
Further information from the campaigns
Both Better Together (the campaign to remain in the UK) and Yes Scotland (the campaign for independence) have LGBTI campaign groups advocating their different positions on the referendum. Visit their websites for more on their opinions:
- Find out more from Yes LGBT: www.yesscotland.net/news/gay-rights-campaigners-urge-vote-yes-equality
- Find out more from LGBT Together: www.bettertogether.net/blog/entry/lgbt-together-launches-as-uk-declared-best-place-in-europe-to-be-gay
Our position on the referendum
The Equality Network is deliberately neutral on the question of the independence referendum as we recognise that our supporters, and LGBTI people across Scotland, will have a broad range of views.
However, we will continue to engage with parties and organisations on both sides of the referendum debate before and after the vote in order to ensure that, regardless of the outcome, we get the best deal for LGBTI equality and human rights.
What happens after the referendum?
- If Scotland votes for independence: Our immediate priority will be to ensure Scotland’s written constitution provides clear protections for LGBTI equality and human rights, including on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status. Our work relating to independence will focus on the development of the constitution, and ensuring that the impact on LGBTI equality and human rights is fully considered during the process of negotiations between Scotland and rUK, and during the process of establishing any new policies, laws and institutions.
- If Scotland votes to remain in the UK: Our immediate priority will be to secure devolution of equal opportunities powers so that we can protect the progress made in recent years on LGBTI equality and deal with the deficiencies of current equality law. Devolution of equal opportunities powers has been the Equality Network’s policy since 1998, and we will work with all the main parties, on both sides of the referendum debate, to make this happen.
Registering to vote
The deadline to register to vote in the Scottish independence referendum was Tuesday 2 September 2014.
To check whether you are registered and to find out more information about how to vote please visit: www.aboutmyvote.co.uk/referendum_scotland.aspx
If you would like further information about the Equality Network’s work you can contact us at: www.equality-network.org/about/contact