The co-convenor of the Scottish Green Party has said that several members of the Scottish Parliament are gay but afraid to publicly declare their sexual orientation.

Patrick Harvie, an MSP for Glasgow, is the first out LGBT party leader in Britain.

Last month he was elected unopposed as co-convenor of the Scottish Green Party.

Of the 129 members of the Scottish Parliament, One SNP and two Lib Dem MSPs are openly gay or lesbian. Mr Harvie is bisexual.

“I think it’s important to be ‘out’ in politics but there are some at Holyrood who are still in the closet,” he said, according to The Times.

“However, it’s entirely a matter for them.

“Homophobia still exists in Scotland. Gay men are far more likely to experience violence or harassment in the street, for example.”

During the 2007 Holyrood elections, Mr Harvie was targeted by fundamentalist Christian preacher George Hargreaves.

The founder of the Scottish Christian Party stood against him, claiming that Mr Harvie’s open bisexuality makes him sinful.

Mr Hargreaves has funded the SCP – slogan Proclaiming Christ’s Lordship – with royalties he continues to receive for co-writing and producing the 1980s anthem So Macho, sung by gay icon Sinitta.

He took 1.4% of the votes in the Glasgow region.

New legislation that will allow Scotland’s courts can impose tougher sentences for offences aggravated by the victim’s disability, gender identity or sexual orientation should be law by 2009.

The Sentencing of Offences Aggravated by Prejudice (Scotland) Bill was proposed by Mr Harvie last year.

It would require the aggravation of an offence by prejudice on grounds of disability, sexual orientation or transgender identity to be taken into account in sentencing.