Nicola Sturgeon pledges trans rights shake-up in Scotland

Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon has set out her LGBT rights priorities ahead of May’s Holyrood elections – promising a radical overhaul of the gender recognition system, but ducking a direct pledge to introduce statutory sex and relationship education.

The First Minister of Scotland set out her vision on LGBT rights today ahead of a hustings co-hosted by LGBT rights groups including Stonewall Scotland and the Equality Network.

The SNP leader, who is on course to win a decisive majority in the May elections, outlined a five-point plan on LGBT rights.

It lists pledges to: “Expect all new, guidance and promoted teachers to undertake training on equality so they are confident in tackling prejudice-based bullying.

“Promote children’s health and well-being right throughout early years, primary and secondary education, so that all children and young people learn tolerance, respect, human rights, equality, good citizenship, to address and prevent prejudice and about healthy relationships through refreshed, age-appropriate strategies and resources.

“Work towards every professional working with children being trained on equality, addressing prejudice-based bullying, attachment, child development and child protection.

“Review and reform gender recognition law for all Trans people to ensure it is line with international best practice.

“Aim for all police officers to receive appropriate training on the investigation of hate crime.”

Nicola Sturgeon pledges trans rights shake-up in Scotland

Ms Sturgeon said: “I’m proud that Scotland has made significant progress on LGBTI equality in recent years; however, the very fact that we are still having debates like this at election time just underlines that there is still much that we need to do.

“In particular I want to see a renewed focus on areas such as education – both for young people themselves, and those responsible for their emotional and educational wellbeing.

“Tolerance, respect, inclusion – these are attitudes and principles we want to encourage and foster in modern, fairer Scotland.

“Enabling young people to make informed choices about their gender and sexual identity is about supporting them to be themselves so that they might fulfil their potential.

“I am hopeful that in the next Scottish Parliament, we can build as much consensus on LGBTI issues as we did in this session – and take another leap forward for equality.”

However, the plan has been met with disappointment from some campaigners – who have criticized the lack of an explicit commitment to statutory inclusive sex and relationship education.

The Scottish National Party’s conference had voted to back inclusive SRE earlier this year, but a direct pledge on the issue was absent from Ms Sturgeon’s commitments.

A spokesperson for the Time for Inclusive Education campaign stated: “Only very small steps have been taken here regarding education – Nicola’s strategy here does not go far enough in protecting LGBT+ young people and this does not reflect the motion that was passed at conference.

“In order to ensure that our schools are inclusive of LGBT+, teaching staff must receive LGBT+ specific training – what Nicola proposes here is blanket equalities training, which will not do enough.

“Ourselves, SNP Youth and SNP Students expect and hope that the SNP’s manifesto will go much further than this and truly reflect the expectations of the membership who unanimously backed our campaign.

“If this is the strategy that will be taken into the next parliament, then we still have a very long way to go. We would urge the SNP to work with us on this, because the next strategy has to be the right one.”

Other LGBT campaigners have welcomed many of the proposals.

Tim Hopkins of the Equality Network said: “We welcome these commitments from the SNP, which address some key concerns of LGBTI people, and we hope that the other parties will make strong pledges on LGBTI equality.”

James Morton of the Scottish Transgender Alliance said: “We are very pleased to see the SNP pledge to reform gender recognition law for all trans people, in line with international best practice.

“That would mean enabling people to change the gender on their birth certificate without intrusive medical diagnosis, recognising trans people as the experts on their own identities. It would allow young people to legally change their gender, with parents’ support if under 16.

“It would also mean the law recognising that some people have a non-binary gender, that is, they are neither men nor women. We hope that the other parties will match this commitment and we look forward to working on this with whoever forms the next Scottish Government.”

Nathan Gale of Non-Binary Scotland said: “By making a commitment to reform gender recognition law the Scottish Government is ensuring that all trans people, no-matter what their gender identity, will be able to be themselves, in all aspects of their lives.

“Trans people who don’t identify as men or women have just as much right to have the gender they identify as recognised and respected as everyone else.

“I hope that the next Scottish Government will truly aspire to international best practice and provide for a third gender, alongside male and female, to be recognised in Scottish law.”

Gender recognition in Scotland is currently governed by the UK-wide 2004 Gender Recognition Act.

Westminster’s Women and Equalities Committee recommended a radical shake-up of the legislation earlier this year.

The UK government’s Minister for Women and Equalities Nicky Morgan said she would “look into” the suggested changes, but is yet to actually make any policy announcements on the issue.

If Scotland pushes forward with its own devolved law beforehand, this may leave the rest of the UK lagging behind due to the hold-up in Westminster. As the anti-LGBT Democratic Unionist Party are dominant in Northern Ireland, it is highly unlikely to follow Ms Sturgeon in pursuing gender recognition reform on a devolved basis.

Tonight’s hustings is hosted by the main Scottish LGBTI organisations Stonewall Scotland, The Equality Network, LGBT Youth Scotland and The Scottish Transgender Alliance.

The First Minister will be joined at the LGBT hustings tonight by Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale, Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson, Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie and Patrick Harvie of the Scottish Greens.

UKIP’s Scottish leader David Coburn, who is gay himself, was not invited.

A spokesperson for Stonewall Scotland said: “Stonewall Scotland invited all parties which are currently represented in the Scottish Parliament to participate in our LGBTI hustings, but of course are keen to work with all parties to ensure that LGBT equality is a priority for the next Scottish Government and are happy to meet with any candidate to discuss how they can support that aim.”