Nicola Sturgeon calls for LGBTQ+ solidarity during Qatar World Cup: ‘Stand up for dignity’

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon wears a rainbow "choose love" t-shirt at the 2018 Pride Festival in Glasgow

Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon has called for people “to stand in solidarity with the LGBT+ community” during the FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

Sturgeon struck a markedly different tone to UK foreign secretary James Cleverly, who this week defended asking football fans travelling to the host nation, where homosexuality is illegal, to “compromise” with local laws.

During First Minister’s Questions in the Scottish Parliament on Thursday (17 November), Scottish Labour’s Paul O’Kane questioned Sturgeon about the Scottish Football Association sending officials to the event.

“What message does she think it sends particularly to LGBT+ people in Scotland,” the Evening Standard reported him asking.

Sturgeon said sending officials was a matter for the sporting body and that “governments should not intervene” in such decisions.

However, “it is a really important moment for” solidarity with LGBT+ people “regardless of party, regardless of anything else that might divide us”, Sturgeon said.

“I think that is what is even more important over the next few weeks than sport, that we take the opportunity to stand up for human rights and the dignity of those in that community and that we unite around that sentiment today and right throughout the period of the competition in Qatar.”

UK foreign secretary James Cleverly, appearing on ITV’s Good Morning Britain on Monday (14 November), said he had “spoken at length with the Qatari authorities” about making sure fans were safe during the World Cup.

A photo of foreign secretary James Cleverly taken during a Cabinet Weekly Meeting

James Cleverly’s remarks on how LGBTQ+ football fans should be ‘respectful’ in Qatar have been criticised. (Getty Images/Dan Kitwood/)

However, he did not give specific advice for LGBTQ+ people other than referring people to the Foreign Office website.

The number of people vocally expressing concern for LGBTQ+ people in Qatar, as well as the country’s human rights record, is increasing ahead of the tournament starting on Sunday (20 November).

In just the last week, comedian Joe Lycett has threatened to shred £10,000 of his own money if David Beckham doesn’t back deal, reportedly worth £150m, to be an ambassador for Qatar.

So far Lycett hasn’t “heard a peep” from Beckham.

Great British Bake Off star John Whaite told Metro the deal was “disgusting”.

Former Germany player Thomas Hitzlsperger, who came out as gay after retiring from football, told The Guardian it was “sick” Qatar was hosting the World Cup.

He also criticised those being paid by the country or FIFA.

Rapper Nicki Minaj, who has a large queer fan base, received backlash, on Monday (14 November), after teasing a song in support of the 2022 World Cup.

Virgin Atlantic also suspended its gender-neutral uniform policy on flights taking England’s World Cup squad to Qatar “following a risk assessment … to ensure the safety of our people”, the airline told Sky News.