Q&A: Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon answers all your LGBT questions ahead of the General Election

Nicola Sturgeon

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has answered PinkNews readers’ questions ahead of tomorrow’s General Election.

The SNP leader makes a renewed call for Gender X passports, calls for a “full and independent investigation” into the persecution of LGBT people in Chechnya, and commits to helping increase trans* visibility in political elections.

Read Nicola Sturgeon’s answers in full below:

Nicola Sturgeon

Q – Dev, Fort William: So much progress has been made for LGBT rights in recent years, but there is still much work to be done at home and abroad. What will you do to promote LGBT rights in Scotland, the UK, and around the world?

A – I’m proud of the huge progress that has been made in Scotland in recent years, and the role that the SNP has played in making that change happen – transforming Scotland into one of the best countries in the world for LGBTI equality.

The SNP is committed to securing full equality for LGBTI people. Equality and human rights are fundamental to our values and aims as a progressive social democratic party, and we have a strong record of championing LGBTI equality in government and at Westminster.

We have delivered Scotland’s progressive equal marriage and hate crime laws, we have given record funding to LGBTI equality organisations, and we have driven forward equality in our public services – but we know that there is still more to do.

Last week we published our LGBTI equality manifesto for the general election, setting out how a strong team of SNP MPs at Westminster will champion LGBTI equality – pressing for world-leading reforms in those areas still reserved to Westminster.

SNP MPs will press for the full devolution of equality law, so that the Scottish Parliament can protect and extend LGBTI rights, we’ll extend discrimination protections to all LGBTI people, improve access to justice by scrapping employment tribunal fees, and reform the law to ensure equal pension rights for same-sex couples.

We’ll deliver world-leading reforms to gender recognition law in Scotland, so that all trans and non-binary people can fully access their human right to legal gender recognition, we’ll press the UK government to do the same, and we’ll push for reforms to allow non-binary people to record their gender as “X” on passports, records and identity documents.

We’ll continue to press the UK government to deliver a truly progressive Turing Law, that extends an automatic pardon to all gay and bisexual men convicted for same-sex sexual activity that is now lawful, and we will support efforts to have PrEP made available on the NHS across the UK – as it will be in Scotland.

In devolved areas, we will continue to drive forward equality in our public services – tackling bullying in schools and making education more inclusive, tackling hate crime, improving healthcare and gender identity services, and working for equality in sport.

Internationally, we’ll promote LGBTI human rights by opposing any Tory attempts to repeal the Human Rights Act or withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), we’ll press for reforms to improve the asylum system for LGBTI people fleeing persecution, and we’ll push for LGBTI equality to be an integral part of UK foreign policy, including by establishing a special envoy to advance the rights of LGBTI people.

Above all, a vote for the SNP tomorrow is a vote for a strong team of SNP MPs that will champion LGBTI equality and show real leadership – working hard to make Scotland, and the world, a fairer and more equal place.

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Q – Katherine, Ayr: The SNP has a great record of bringing through gay and lesbian MPs. What will the party to do increase representation of trans* people and bring through transgender candidates for election?

A – I’m a strong believer that parliaments should be representative of the people they seek to represent, and that diverse parliaments create better laws and policies because they are more likely to consider the full range of views and issues.

The SNP has worked hard to increase the diversity of our elected representatives. The SNP Scottish Government was the first in the UK to have a gender-balanced cabinet, we have more women representatives across Holyrood, Westminster and local government, and we have the highest proportion of LGB candidates of any party at this election – a record 17%.

It is clearly wrong that there has never been an openly transgender MP, and all parties need to do more to encourage and support trans people to stand for election, and reduce the barriers that exist. The SNP have a very strong LGBTI group within the party, and we will continue to provide support and training to potential candidates to ensure further progress.

Q – Elena, Inverness: The UK’s Gender Recognition has been overtaken by our society – what will the SNP do to help update the act and make it fit for purpose for the 21st century. What will you do to help trans* people in Scotland and the rest of the UK?

A – The SNP was the first governing party in the UK to commit to reforming gender recognition law, in line with international best practice, to ensure that all trans and non-binary people can fully access their human right to legal gender recognition.

I made that commitment in the Scottish Parliament election last year, and work is already underway. SNP MPs will continue to press the UK government to follow Scotland’s lead on this and commit to legislation within this parliament.

It is clear that we’ve still got much further to go to tackle the inequality that trans people face. SNP MPs will press for reforms to the law to ensure all trans people are protected from discrimination, we’ll improve our public service provision, and we’ll take action to tackle hate crime and challenge transphobic prejudice.

Q – David, Hove: A variety of countries offer Gender X passports for people who do not conform to binary gender identities. Will you push for the UK government to follow New Zealand and Australia in introducing these types of passport options? Would you consider the recommendations of the Women and Equalities Select Committee to make government forms and paperwork as gender neutral as possible?

A – Absolutely. SNP MPs have already been pressing the UK government on this, and we’ll continue to seek reforms to allow non-binary people to record their gender as “X” on passports, records and other identity documents. SNP MPs will always stand up for the rights of non-binary people.

Q – Genevieve, Inverness: Gay people all over the world suffer persecution. Will Scotland take its fair share of LGBTI refugees and asylum seekers? And how should Scotland endeavour to reduce this persecution in these countries?

A – Yes – Scotland always stands ready to take its fair share of refugees and asylum seekers, including LGBTI people fleeing persecution. It was Angus Robertson, and SNP MPs, that pressed the UK government to u-turn and finally accept our fair share of unaccompanied child refugees from Syria, and the SNP has long-called for reforms to our asylum system to ensure that LGBTI people are treated fairly – with dignity and respect.

The UK government should be doing more to protect LGBTI people fleeing persecution, and it should undertake stronger diplomatic efforts to challenge LGBTI persecution around the world.

Q – Many readers: What is your view on Chechnya apparently setting up ‘concentration camps’ and persecuting gay men?

A – The reports we’ve seen from Chechnya are utterly appalling – and it is vital that the UK government works with the international community to ensure a full and independent investigation.

While we’ve seen significant progress for LGBTI equality in much of the world, we cannot take anything for granted. There are still many places in which LGBTI people face significant prejudice, discrimination, and persecution.

That’s why advancing LGBTI equality must be an integral part of UK foreign policy, and why the SNP is pressing for a special envoy to work across government, and internationally, to advance the rights of LGBTI people.

Q – John, Glasgow: If you manage to force a second independence referendum and Scotland votes once more to remain part of the UK, will the SNP accept this as the unambiguous will of the Scottish people and cease to push for Scottish independence for at least a generation?

A – The SNP secured a mandate from the Scottish electorate in 2016, and from the Scottish Parliament in 2017, that the people of Scotland should have the right to choose their future if they voted to remain in the EU and the rest of the UK voted to leave. Membership of the EU has been hugely important in protecting our economy, our rights, and equality, and it should be for people to choose whether we accept a Tory Brexit or follow our own path.

Q- Ken, Stirling: You have said that you support the (TIE) campaign and will work with them to make sex and relationship education LGBT-inclusive, but how will you make sure that Scotland’s Catholic schools follow through with this, given their historical opposition to LGBT equality?

A – The Scottish government has set up a working group between the government and stakeholders in our education system, including the TIE campaign, to explore how best to achieve the objectives of the TIE campaign. We are committed to tackling homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying, and making education inclusive for all.

Q – Alan, Glasgow: At the moment the Equality Act places the onus on victims of prejudice to make civil complaints with some loopholes for religious groups. Will you make it absolutely clear that no teacher in Scotland can be denied promotion, or discriminated against in any other way, in any school, for being LGBTI or teaching LGBTI inclusion?

A – We support equality legislation and expect all organisations in Scotland to comply.

Q: Kirsty, Aberdeen: The UK – including Scotland – will be taken out the European Union against the will of the Scottish people. There’s further talk about our withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights, which has proved so crucial in protecting LGBT people. How will the SNP make sure that we will remain party to this vital treaty?

A – The SNP is firmly opposed to withdrawal from the ECHR, and SNP MPs will oppose any moves to withdraw from human rights protections at all opportunities.

The Scottish Government stands firm in it’s support for human rights and will always look to build on, rather than erode, those rights.

Scotland voted to remain in the EU and we believe that the people of Scotland must be able to choose Scotland’s future relationship with the EU when the outcome of the Brexit process is clear.

Q – Abdul, Glasgow: Will you attend Pride in Glasgow this August?

A – I’ve been proud to attend LGBTI events, including Pride, for many years and the SNP and Scottish Government will always be represented. It’s important that politicians of all parties are vocal in their support for LGBTI equality.

Q – Ben, London: Who would you say is your Gay Icon and why?

A – That’s a very difficult one. There are so many people who have made a significant contribution to LGBTI equality, and many LGBTI people that have made a huge contribution to society – from David Bowie, to Ian McKellen, to politician’s across the parties including our own inspirational Mhairi Black.

PinkNews readers’ Q&As:

Conservative leader Theresa May

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn

Lib Dem leader Tim Farron

Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood

Green co-leader Jonathan Bartlett