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Holyrood manifestos 2021-26 – what the parties are saying on LGBTI equality issues

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In advance of the May 6th Scottish Parliament election, the Equality Network and Scottish Trans Alliance worked with our friends at Stonewall Scotland and LGBT Youth Scotland to publish our LGBTI Equality Manifesto for the Parliament for 2021-26.

But how do the political parties’ manifestos measure up to ours? Here we summarise what each of the main parties’ manifestos says on on each of our key calls, by directly quoting from their manifestos. Material is only included if it specifically refers to LGBTI equality, and parties are listed in the order of their manifesto launches.

Ensure Gender Identity Services are fit for purpose

Our headline call: Ensuring NHS gender identity services are fit for purpose – now, and in the future. Take action to substantially reduce the waiting times for first appointments as a matter of urgency, by providing centralised crisis funding and piloting new ways of delivering these services to realise their long-term sustainability.

What the Scottish Green manifesto says: “Introduce an informed consent model of trans healthcare, and in the meantime continue to push for access to Gender Identity Clinics within 18 weeks, in line with NHS standards for other services.”

What the SNP manifesto says: “We are aware of the urgent need to improve access to NHS Gender Identity Services. We will take action by committing to three years of centralised crisis intervention funding to improve care, support and services. We will work with people with lived experience to explore how this is best delivered, including improving community provision.”

What the Scottish Labour manifesto says: “Scottish Labour will bring Gender Identity Clinics (GICs) into line with other NHS services by setting an 18-week referral to first appointment target. We will also guarantee the right to self-refer to GICs under all health boards. We will introduce new guidance to prevent harmful stereotyping, establish an inquiry to explore an “informed consent” model of treatment and will update the Gender Reassignment Protocol to allow for greater flexibility in treatment.”

There is nothing specific to this call in the Scottish LibDem manifesto.

There is nothing specific to this call in the Scottish Conservative manifesto.

Protect and progress LGBTI rights

Our headline call: Protecting and progressing LGBTI rights, including through enshrining LGBTI human rights in Scots law; taking measures to end ‘conversion therapy’; improving trans equality, including through reforming the Gender Recognition Act; and taking action to further I/VSC equality.

What the Scottish Green manifesto says:

“Ensure LGBT+ inclusion in Scottish Government international development policies, and enshrining the Yogyakarta human rights principles into Scots law.”

“Ban so-called ‘conversion therapy’, which refers to unethical and unnecessary interventions that seek to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of LGBT+ people or alter a person’s sex characteristics without their consent.”

“Deliver long overdue reforms to the Gender Recognition Act, including statutory self-declaration, recognising non-binary identities and all genders, and providing access to health care for trans minors with parental or guardian consent.”

What the SNP manifesto says:

“There is no place for conversion therapy in Scotland. Such practices are discriminatory and harmful to the mental health and wellbeing of LGBTI people. The UK Government made a commitment to ban conversion therapy in their LGBT Action Plan, and we fully support this, as we know making a ban fully comprehensive will involve action in reserved areas. However, if the UK Government does not take action, we will bring forward our own legislation insofar as is possible within the powers of the Scottish Parliament.”

“In the next parliament we will work with trans people, women, equality groups, legal and human rights experts to identify the best and most effective way to improve and simplify the process by which a trans person can obtain legal recognition, so that the trauma associated with that process is reduced. We remain committed to making necessary changes to the Gender Recognition Act that arise from this work at the earliest opportunity.”

“We will ensure that these changes do not affect the rights or protections that women currently have under the Equality Act. It is important that concerns about reforms to gender recognition law are addressed through informed and respectful discussion. However we must not allow them to be a cover for transphobia or disinformation.”

What the Scottish LibDem manifesto says:

“End the harmful practice of sexual orientation and gender identity conversion therapy in the next parliamentary session, working with the UK Government where necessary.”

“Improve laws on gender recognition in line with international best practice to allow trans people to change the legal gender on their birth certificate with a simple process based on the principle of self-determination, and without intrusive medical diagnosis requirements and include the recognition of non-binary people. This de-medicalised system to change legal gender will better support trans people to live their lives free from discrimination.”

What the Scottish Conservative manifesto says: “We would work with the UK Government to end conversion therapy in Scotland”

What the Scottish Labour manifesto says:

“We will legislate to end the cruel practice of conversion therapy.”

“We will reform the Gender Recognition Act to demedicalise the process and allow for the recognition of people who identify as neither men nor women.”

“Scottish Labour shares concerns that some parents of children with intersex traits, also know as variations in sex characteristics, are still pressured into unnecessary surgeries. While some may choose to take medical steps later in life, this is a choice that must be made by individuals themselves.”

Support LGBT Mental Health

Our headline call: Tackling LGBT mental health inequalities by taking forward targeted work on mental health improvement and prevention, and ensuring mental health services are equipped to support LGBT people.

What the Scottish Green manifesto says: “We will ensure that health and social care services throughout Scotland, including mental health services, are fully inclusive of LGBT+ people and designed to remove barriers and tackle health inequalities.”

What the Scottish LibDem manifesto says: “Commit to funding mandatory training for mental health professionals, including front line CAMHS staff, on supporting LGBTI people, and ensure mental health and suicide prevention training delivered to NHS staff is inclusive.”

There is nothing specific to this call in the SNP manifesto (but see section below on the parties’ LGBTI mini-manifestos).

There is nothing specific to this call in the Scottish Conservative manifesto.

There is nothing specific to this call in the Scottish Labour manifesto.

Ensure fair treatment in Health and Social Care for LGBTI people

Our headline call: Ensuring that LGBTI people experience fair treatment when accessing all health and social care services, including equal access to reproductive and fertility services, with staff trained to effectively support LGBTI patients and service users.

What the Scottish Green manifesto says: “We will ensure that health and social care services throughout Scotland, including mental health services, are fully inclusive of LGBT+ people and designed to remove barriers and tackle health inequalities.”

What the SNP manifesto says: “Trans people continue to experience stigma and prejudice and suffer poorer health outcomes relative to the wider population. This needs to change.”

What the Scottish LibDem manifesto says:

“Ensure that all NHS healthcare professionals can meet the needs of their LGBTI patients by incorporating training that addresses barriers faced due to both sexual orientation and gender identity.”

“Ensure that LGBTI people can access welcoming and inclusive social care services, by providing targeted training for staff with a focus on those working in residential care settings.”

“Ensure that NHS reproductive health and fertility services recognise, and address, barriers and health inequalities faced by LGBTI people, particularly by lesbian and bisexual women.”

What the Scottish Labour manifesto says: “Blood donations still discriminate against gay and bisexual men and their partners, undermining our public health strategy. Scottish Labour will end this discriminatory and unscientific practice.”

There is nothing specific to this call in the Scottish Conservative manifesto.

Implement LGBTI-inclusive education

Our headline call: The continued implementation of LGBT-inclusive education, ensuring all of the recommendations from the Report to the Scottish Ministers (2018) are fully realised, and that the progress made so far in the implementation pathway is further built upon in the 2021-26 parliamentary term.

What the Scottish Green manifesto says: “Implement the Time for Inclusion Education (TIE) campaign recommendations, including the delayed delivery of promised funding to assist this important work.”

“The Scottish Greens will build on our success in winning key improvements to Personal and Social Education, guaranteeing every pupil a PSE curriculum which covers topics such as consent-based sex education, LGBT+ inclusivity, and mental health”

What the SNP manifesto says: “We remain fully committed to progressing delivery of the world-leading recommendations on LGBT Inclusive Education across the curriculum in order to improve the learning environment for all children and young people.”

“We believe an educational approach to tackling homophobic, biphobic, and transphobic bullying and prejudice in schools is essential. LGBT history, role models and equalities education should be taught in schools to tackle the prejudice which often leads to the bullying and social exclusion of LGBT young people. To achieve this, we have funded Time For Inclusive Education (TIE) to work with decision makers, produce curriculum resources, and deliver services for teachers and pupils to raise awareness, heighten knowledge, and foster good relations. We are committed to that work and will continue to fund it until the prejudice that has blighted too many young lives is eradicated.”

What the Scottish LibDem manifesto says: “Fully implement the recommendations of the LGBTI Inclusive Education Working Group, underpinned by new statutory guidance on the conduct of relationships, sexual health and parenthood education for schools.”

What the Scottish Conservative manifesto says: “Schools should emphasise the importance of respect, tolerance and equality in an age appropriate way to prevent bullying, racism, homophobia and misogyny.”

What the Scottish Labour manifesto says: “Scottish Labour supports the aims of the TIE campaign to develop LGBT+ inclusive education in the curriculum.”

Improve Community Safety and Inclusion for LGBTI People

Our headline call: Improving community safety and inclusion for LGBTI people by funding LGBTI services and community groups, and ensuring that work on tackling issues such as hate crime, homelessness, and social isolation includes LGBTI-focused measures.

What the SNP manifesto says: “We remain firmly committed to improving the lives of trans and non-binary people. Trans people continue to experience stigma and prejudice and suffer poorer health outcomes relative to the wider population. This needs to change. We are committed to tackling transphobia head on through inclusive education and action to tackle prejudice and hate crime.”

What the Scottish LibDem manifesto says: “Homophobia and transphobia continue to be real problems for too people.”

What the Scottish Conservative manifesto says: “We would ensure frontline responders are trained to support victims of hate crime. The Scottish Conservatives have strongly opposed the SNP’s Hate Crime Act. To protect free speech, we would introduce a Protection of Free Speech Bill to repeal the Hate Crime Act and prevent other attacks on freedom of expression.”

What the Scottish Labour manifesto says: “It must be a priority for Police Scotland to build strong connections with our diverse minority ethnic communities, LGBT+ people and other underrepresented communities to ensure their voices are heard and respected.”

There is nothing specific to this call in the Scottish Green manifesto.

Support LGBTI rights abroad

Our headline call: Showing leadership in advancing LGBTI equality and the protection of LGBTI rights abroad, including through delivering LGBTI-inclusive and LGBTI-specific international development work.

What the Scottish Green manifesto says: “Ensure LGBT+ inclusion in Scottish Government international development policies, and enshrining the Yogyakarta human rights principles into Scots law.”

What the Scottish Labour manifesto says: “Development assistance should also be targeted to address inequalities, including LGBT+ rights…as well as support for human rights defenders.”

There is nothing specific to this call in the SNP manifesto.

There is nothing specific to this call in the Scottish LibDem manifesto.

There is nothing specific to this call in the Scottish Conservative manifesto.

Other LGBTI issues in the parties’ manifestos

The Scottish Green manifesto also says: “The Scottish Greens stand firmly for inclusive, intersectional feminism which recognises not only that gender inequality runs deep in our society, but also that it is affected by other kinds of inequality like wealth, disability, racial injustice, LGBT+ discrimination and more.”

The SNP manifesto also says: “We will introduce an overarching Scottish Diversity and Inclusion Strategy covering the public sector, our educational institutions, justice system, transport, and workplaces. This strategy will focus on the removal of institutional, cultural and financial barriers which lead to inequalities in relation to gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, disability and social mobility.”

The Scottish LibDem manifesto also says: “Scotland needs to benefit from the diverse talents of everyone to increase wellbeing and productivity. That means there should be opportunity for everyone whatever their background, rich or poor, and regardless of gender, sexuality, race, religion, disability or other aspects of what we look like or where we come from.”

The Scottish Conservative manifesto also says: “We will tackle prejudice and discrimination in all forms to ensure no one is held back from succeeding due to their race, sexuality, gender, religion or disability.”

The Scottish Labour manifesto also says: “We will ensure a zero-tolerance approach to violence, bullying and discrimination based on sexuality and gender in Scottish society.”

“Scottish Labour is the party of equality: we will work to build a society free from all forms of sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ageism, racism, antisemitism and Islamophobia, discrimination against disabled people and bigotry and prejudice in all their forms.”

Links to the parties’ manifestos

The parties’ LGBTI mini-manifestos

Some parties (so far, the SNP and the Greens) have also published LGBTI mini-manifestos.

The Scottish Greens LGBTI mini-manifesto is very comprehensive and contains too many pro-LGBTI equality pledges to list in detail here, covering health and wellbeing, sport, education, law and justice, international inclusion, and pandemic recovery. You can read it here.

In addition to the points already noted above in the main SNP manifesto, the SNP LGBTI mini-manifesto says:

“Mental health problems can affect anyone, but there is substantial evidence that LGBTI people are especially at risk of experiencing poor mental health.” [and there is a range of non-LGBTI-specific pledges on mental health in the manifesto].

“We will continue to demand the full devolution of equality, employment and immigration powers so that the Scottish Parliament has the powers to protect LGBTI equality and make Scotland a fairer and more equal place to live.”