Nicola Sturgeon promises to remain an ‘unflinching ally’ to LGBTQ+ community

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 17: Former First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon poses in the winners room with the Celebrity Ally Award during the Rainbow Honours 2023 at the National History Museum on May 17, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Shane Anthony Sinclair/Getty Images)

Nicola Sturgeon has vowed she will continue to fight for LGBTQ+ rights “as long as there is a breath in [her] body”, at this year’s Rainbow Honours awards. 

The former SNP first minister was named the Celebrity Ally of the Year at the Bank of London Rainbow Honours awards, which took place at Natural History Museum on Tuesday (17 May). 

The event coincided with International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia. 

Accepting the award, the Scottish politician called the bash – which showcases individuals and organisations who work all year to “influence change and proudly promote LGBTQIA equality” – a “wonderful, uplifting, life-affirming, celebratory event”. 

Sturgeon began her speech by saying “equality is not linear, it is not one-directional, it can go backwards as well as forwards” and this is a moment where “we must be strong in making sure it continues to go forwards”. 

“We must do that in a united manner. We must not never, ever give in to the attempts to divide and rule,” she added. 

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She went on to say: “My rights as a woman are not diminished in any way, shape or form by the enhancement of the rights of trans men and women. Never, never ever, let anyone tell you otherwise.” 

It’s a statement she feels she has said in Scotland until she is “blue in the face”. 

‘A strong unflinching, unequivocal ally’

“This is a moment for unity,” Nicola Sturgeon said of the event, “it is a moment for solidarity, it is a moment for strength and for courage, and this room tonight exemplifies courage, often in the face of adversity.

“For as long as there is a breath in my body, and I hope that is for some time yet to come, I will always be an ally, a strong unflinching, unequivocal ally.”

Sturgeon’s speech comes as the UK has once more dropped down the rankings in the ILGA-Europe Rainbow Map, which ranks European nations on their LGBTQ+ rights. 

Prior to 2015, the UK was consistently the highest ranked LGBTQ+-friendly nation in Europe but in 2023 has dipped to 17th place. 

The in-depth report revealed anti-trans rhetoric has caused “serious damage” to the UK’s ranking for 2023; with ILGA-Europe citing “hostile reporting” by mainstream newspapers, trans sports bans, former prime minister Boris Johnson excluding trans people from the promised outlawing of “conversion therapy”, and the anti-trans group, LGB Alliance, achieving charity status. 

Currently, the Scottish government – under Humza Yousaf – is also preparing to go to court against the UK government over Westminster blocking the devolved nation’s landmark gender reform law. 

The Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill was passed in Holyrood in December 2022 and would make it easier for trans Scots to get a Gender Recognition Certificate, as well as opening up the process to 16 and 17-year-olds. 

However, in January Westminster invoked a Section 35 order to block it from gaining royal assent – an unprecedented move in the history of devolution. 

In the wake of legal action being confirmed by Yousaf, Scottish social justice secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said the move by the Tories was an “unprecedented challenge to the Scottish parliament’s ability to legislate” and “risks setting a dangerous constitutional precedent”.