Scottish parliament elections: Labour and Lib Dems promise gay rights action

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The Scottish Labour and Liberal Democrat parties have made manifesto promises on marriage equality ahead of May’s election.

Labour – which is on an equal footing with the SNP in polls – says it will consult on the issue while the Lib Dems offer a firmer commitment.

Labour’s manifesto says: “We also believe that the time is now right to consult on options to provide genuine equality for same-sex couples and their families, by addressing the different status of civil partnership and marriage. We are clear – Scotland shouldn’t be left behind on these issues.”

It also pledges to deal with the issue of historical gay sex convictions for actions which are no longer crimes and “investigate the best way” to allow religious civil partnerships.

The Liberal Democrat manifesto promises that the party will “extend legal marriage to gay couples and civil partnerships to heterosexual couples”.

It adds that the party will work with Westminster to review the ban on gay men donating blood and encourage schools to do more to tackle homophobia.

The Conservative manifesto contains no mention of equality or gay rights.

The SNP is to publish its manifesto next week, with the Green party manifesto following a week later.

Tim Hopkins, of the Equality Network, welcomed the promises from Labour and the Lib Dems and said the Green manifesto was expected to show strong gay rights support.

He told “We always thought it was relatively unlikely that Labour and the SNP would say they would introduce marriage equality and the best we’ve got so far from Labour is a promise to consult. But the language used – ‘genuine equality’ – is a good sign.”

Last year, in a general election Q&A session, SNP leader Alex Salmond did not give his views on marriage equality.

Mr Hopkins said: “The whole agenda [on marriage equality] has moved forward hugely in the last 18 months. It would be unfair to draw conclusions as to what the SNP will say in their manifesto.”

Labour and the SNP are neck-and-neck in the latest polls. Mr Hopkins said that the race was “wide open” at this point.

“From what we have seen so far, these are already the best manifestos [for gay rights] we have seen in a UK election,” he said.

But he added: “[The Conservative manifesto] is very disappointing. The word ‘equality’ doesn’t appear once in the document – and neither does ‘disability’.”