Comment: A UKIP victory in Scotland poses a threat to LGBT rights

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Writing for PinkNews, Stewart McDonald, from the Scottish National Party’s LGBT group, says a UKIP victory in Scotland runs counter to the country’s progressive outlook on LGBT equality.

When voting this Thursday it is important to remember the position that Scotland finds itself in. Although Scots are undoubtedly European citizens and have made an enormous contribution to the EU, we are not there as a member state in its own right. Who we elect to represent us in the European Parliament is an extraordinarily important decision.

We must also consider what this election means for our community across the continent. Whilst many of us have been lucky enough to celebrate equal marriage, many of our friends in other parts of Europe are facing a steady assault on LGBT equality. We have an opportunity, if not a responsibility, to consider that when voting in this election.

Europe is responsible for important issues. It tackles matters on climate change, cross-border crime, the free-flow of European citizens across the community, human trafficking, animal welfare, human rights, environmental protection – the list goes on. These are matters that we Scots care about and can make strong contributions on.

However we are not a member state (yet!). Scotland is given observer status – if the UK Government allows it – at meetings of the powerful Council of Ministers, meaning that Scottish MEPs have to work hard to get Scotland’s interests on the agenda. And if you think UKIP are going to advance equality across the European Union then I’m afraid your hope is sadly misplaced. Their own lead candidate in Scotland said that celebrating gay marriage was “rubbing people’s noses in it” – despite being an openly gay man himself.

It is for this reason that all of us on the progressive side of the European debate do not wish to have a UKIP MEP representing us. Europe is a tough and important gig, and there is no benefit in electing an isolationist to pursue our national, and cross border community, interest.

It’s understandable that the European Union is considered unpopular or irrelevant by many voters. The level of debate that takes place over Europe is largely grounded in misinformation and hysteria. UKIP have been allowed to dominate the European agenda for too long and it’s about time that those pro-European voices started to fight back.

The EU is not perfect. It’s an institution that requires a lot of reform to make it more democratic, more accountable and more accessible to those that it serves. The EU has failed to put across the reasons why it exists and the benefits that we get from being in rather than out. That is something that we pro-Europeans must, can and will work to change. However that can only be done if we elect sensible heads to go and do that on our behalf.

UKIP is expected to do well in England, and that is something that I deeply regret. However in Scotland the party does not have one single elected representative. At the last local elections UKIP made huge gains across the South, however in Scotland they got less than 5.000 votes out of a total of almost 1.6 million – that’s less than 1% of the votes cast.

In Scotland we elect six MEPs to represent our small nation. It is almost certain that the Liberal Democrats will lose their single seat – meaning that UKIP are fighting hard to make their first electoral gain here. We cannot let that happen.

The fight for that final seat is a straight up fight between the SNP and UKIP. The choice is a party that believes in making Europe work for Scotland and whose candidates have all signed up to support LGBT equality in Europe; or a party that wants to isolate us from the big challenges and big decisions taking place on our doorstep, and would happily consign the advances we’ve made in equality to history.

I hope you’ll join me and many others in rejecting UKIP this Thursday, and instead make a positive contribution to Europe by voting SNP.

Stewart McDonald is the Convener of Out for Independence. LGBT Members of the SNP.

He tweets @StewartMcDonald.

As with all comment articles the views expressed may not necessarily reflect those of PinkNews.