A leading LGBT+ politician says although the Scottish Government has made good progress on LGBT+ issues, there is “a lot more work to do”.
Jamie Greene from the Scottish Conservatives, who founded the cross-party LGBT+ group at Holyrood, joined us on Election Hub Live on Friday April 23 to talk about inclusive education, trans rights and opening up health and social care to these communities.
They also said “whoever the next government is has to get on with it”, adding: “The first thing to say is, the Scottish Parliament is a very modern parliament in many ways.
“It also at one point was the most gay-friendly parliament in the world with the leaders of three of the major parties being openly LGBT.
“We have made a lot of good progress, we have had excellent debates and raised some important issues and I am really proud to have played a part by setting up and founding the cross-party LGBT group.
“The group has met over 20 times and covered some really interesting topics, but there is still a lot of work to do.
“There’s a lot of bills we didn’t get to and legislation we still need to approach, but the parliament overall is heading in the right direction.”
Scottish Government needs to ‘crack on’
Jamie Greene says one of the biggest LGBT+ issues the next parliament needs to tackle is gender recognition legislation.
They say the last parliament “ran out of time” on this issue but that can no longer be used as an excuse.
Jamie Greene said: “We do have to sort out gender recognition legislation. It simply has to be done.
“We can’t hide behind the premise that we ran out of time – we did run out of time but we have five years now to sort it out.
“There are genuine issues here but we need a wide-ranging consultation so everyone feels their views and voices are heard. No one should feel marginalised.
“They have to crack on with that and raise these issues back up the agenda.”
They added: “Trans people in Scotland are suffering from higher rates of mental health problems and higher rates of self-harm.
“Transphobia is rocketing as a crime and access to mental and physical health is difficult for trans people in Scotland.
“Everyone wants to fix this but it has become a highly political and charged debate, which has not always been helpful.
“The politics has got in the way of making good progress right across the spectrum, where we are pitching one community against another.”
Negative undertones of debate in parliament
As well as raising issues such as gender recognition in the next parliament, Jamie Greene also wants to alter the perceived negative undertones to some of the debates.
They said: “There is a general tone of debate we need to fix.
“I sat through some of these debates, the most recent on hate crime legislation, and you do feel and hear the undertones of these debates coming through – not just in parliament, but online as well.
“Women are being shouted at for standing up for women’s rights, trans people are being shouted at for trying to make their lives better, and it is really unhealthy and unhelpful.
“I do hope the next parliament can make some really good progress on these difficult issues.”
Candidates sign up to LGBT+ Equality Pledge
Throughout the election campaign a number of candidates have signed up to the Scotland LGBTI Equality Pledge by Stonewall Scotland, Equality Network, LGBT Youth Scotland and the Scottish Trans Alliance.
The pledge calls on politicians to stand up and support things such as education, healthcare and legal rights for the LGBT+ community in Scotland.
Jamie Greene is one of those who signed the pledge, and said: “We need to look after everyone in Scotland, whatever community they are a part of, and the equality pledge is important.
“It has some very specific asks, like supporting mental health.
These issues we don’t think about in everyday life, but engaging with marginalised people is part of the pledge.”
“Access to mental health support, especially for young LGBT people, is shocking.
“People are having to wait over a year to be seen and during that year they suffer from depression and anxiety and indeed self-harm.
“Suicide rates are going up, and in the trans community they are particularly high.
“We also need equal access to health and social care for elderly people in care homes who consider themselves as gay or bisexual or trans but don’t want to tell anyone.
“They can find the environment very difficult to be in, especially if they have additional health needs or, for example, if they are HIV positive and don’t want to talk about it.
“These issues we don’t think about in everyday life, but engaging with marginalised people is part of the pledge.”
Inclusive education is key
Another area Jamie Greene spoke about on Election Hub Live was LGBT+ education in Scotland’s schools.
They said: “The other issue is inclusive education.
“I am passionate about education and we need to tackle bullying, transphobia and homophobia in schools because it all starts there and young people, if they learn that behaviour, will go on to commit hate crimes against these communities.
“We need to crack on with inclusive education. That agenda has fallen behind and teachers don’t feel equipped to teach these subject matters.
“Whoever the next government is has to get on with it.”