SNP politician condemned for saying conversion therapy is like ‘learning to say no to chocolate’

SNP MSP John Mason argued against a total conversion therapy ban in Scotland

SNP MSP John Mason has compared conversion therapy, often described as torture, to the “self-control” of not “eating too much chocolate”.

Mason has previously opposed retrospective pardons for historically criminalised gay people in Scotland and argued against same-sex marriage, describing it as “a contradiction in terms” because “anything that puts homosexual relationships as any way equal to male-female marriages is just not right”.

According to The National, Mason made his latest comments on conversion therapy while arguing against a ban on the practice in Scottish parliament on Tuesday (15 March).

Mason said he would only support a ban on conversion therapy if it had provisions “not to interfere with freedom of belief or freedom of religion”.

He said that LGBT+ people should be accepted “to a large extent”, but that conversion therapy should not be banned because for religious groups it was about “self-control and choosing not to put your thoughts or desires into action”.

Mason explained his thought process: “I might have a natural desire to eat the attractive food I see.

“Many of us are tempted to eat too much chocolate or drink too much alcohol, so that is where self-control comes in; we sometimes need to say ‘no’ to ourselves.”

He also described religious groups as being “above and beyond the law of the land”, comparing this to bowling clubs having mandatory dress codes, and said that for religious people the word “conversion” was “good” because it meant “turning away from something bad like alcohol or drug abuse”.

His comments were widely condemned, and described as “disgusting” and “wrong”.

Anti-conversion therapy campaigner Blair Anderson tweeted: “Disgusting and insulting to hear John Mason MSP compare the experiences of conversion therapy – widely seen to be a form of torture – to being in contravention of a dress code at a bowling club or eating too much chocolate. Genuinely sickening crap.”


According to Holyrood magazine, other MSPs from across the political spectrum spoke overwhelmingly in favour of the ban on conversion therapy.

Equalities minister Christina McKelvie said that the practice will be banned “once and for all”, promising to consult with faith groups to protect valid discussions of identity.

The Holyrood Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee (EHRCJ) officially backed a ban on LGBT+ conversion therapy in Scotland in January after a petition calling for the practice to be banned was brought to the Scottish Parliament.

The committee said that any legislation to ban conversion therapy should be full and comprehensive, and include any attempt to change a person’s gender identity or sexual orientation.

Unlike the ban proposed by Westminster, the committee has recommended that there is no loophole for “consenting” adults, and that all religious forms of conversion therapy are banned.