Exclusive: SNP leader and Scottish first minister Alex Salmond answers your questions
In the last few months, we’ve given our readers the chance to quiz party leaders on their commitment to gay equality in the run-up to the election.
Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg was the first to tackle questions, followed by Tory leader David Cameron and prime minister Gordon Brown.
We’ve also given some of the smaller parties a chance to respond to PinkNews.co.uk readers, which SNP leader Alex Salmond and Green Party leader Caroline Lucas agreed to do.
Mr Salmond is the final politician to give his views on gay rights in our election series.
Why did you not attend last year’s Gay Pride in Scotland and will you attend the next one?
Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon attended Pride Scotia in Glasgow in 2008. She was the first minister of any Scottish administration to attend a Scottish Pride event. Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP attended Pride Scotia 2009 on behalf of the SNP, as did many party members. In 2009, Pride Scotia unfortunately coincided with Armed Forces Day events up and down Scotland.
When will gay and bisexual men be able to give blood in Scotland?
Although the NHS is devolved, the UK shares one scientific advisory body on this matter – the UK Scientific Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood Tissues and Organs (SaBTO). This body is now reviewing donor eligibility for the UK as a whole right now, specifically considering alternatives to the current situation for gay and bisexual men, and are due to report later in 2010.
Will Alex Salmond be meeting the Pope on his visit to Holyrood and if so and the opportunity presents itself will he be referring to the oppression of LGBT people within the Roman Catholic Church?
He will be meeting the Pope when he visits Scotland. It is for LGBT Catholics to work with their church on issues relating to their position within the Church.
I think the Scottish government do a great job in the face of a hostile opposition at Holyrood. Why do you think that the SNP manages to capture the ride of being Scottish and pride in Scotland which the English don’t seem able to do without either succumbing to racism and homophobia (like the BNP)?
Scottish identity is an inclusive, welcoming and outward-looking one. The SNP reflects that identity and that is why we attract support from all parts of our society. While the vile BNP are gaining attention at the moment, we do not believe that reflects English identity. One of the most welcome trends since devolution has been the rise in a positive English identity – which the SNP fully supports. In the future, Scotland and England will be independent countries, and our friendships and bonds will remain strong in the form of a social union.
I understand the need for any government to have a good relationship with religious faiths, but where do you draw the line between their rights to practice their beliefs, and the individual’s rights expression of sexual identity? In areas like faith schools, should they be allowed to tell children that homosexuality is sinful and wrong while receiving state funding?
The SNP Scottish government believe faith schools play a valuable role in Scottish society. Whilst both faith and secular schools teach the beliefs and principles of different religions it is important that all schools respect equality within our society. The SNP Scottish government recently launched a toolkit with LGBT Youth Scotland to support teachers in all schools in tackling homophobic bullying.
I am poised to vote for either the SNP or the Lib Dems in Glasgow South on May 6th. What can Mr Salmond and the SNP do to convince me as a gay man that they are the party that fights hardest for the LGBT community? Would an SNP government in an independent Scotland maintain gay equality laws that exist and continue to make improvements to achieve equality for the LGBT community?
The SNP Scottish government is completely behind all existing LGBT equality laws, and our groups in Holyrood and Westminster have supported every one. We fulfilled our 2007 manifesto commitment to a hate crimes act by working jointly with the Greens to draft and introduce such a law. This goes beyond the England and Wales equivalent by also including an aggravation of an offence on grounds of transphobia. As a government we have expanded same-sex adoption rights to now include fostering as well.
Do you support full marriage equality – not civil partnerships – and what initiatives have you taken to promote equality in Scotland?
Currently no party in Scotland is able to legislate for same-sex marriage in Scotland without the permission of Westminster, due to the impact on laws covering immigration, pensions, inheritance tax and other areas where London still holds the power. The SNP government contacted the outgoing UK Labour administration on this matter in 2008 after receiving a public petition. We were informed that there was no intention by them to legislate in this way.
Scotland has frequently been behind England in terms of equality laws. Given Scotland’s more traditional religious, regressive and strong views on same-sex relationships, what would you say have been the SNP’s notable contributions in this area to date?
The SNP supported the abolition of Section 28/Clause 2a, which happened in Scotland three years ahead of England. We have the strongest hate crimes law in these islands. When civil partnerships were being legislated for in 2004, every single SNP MP attended and voted in favour, while 20 Scottish Labour MPs declined to attend. I myself voted in Westminster 14 years ago to support LGBT members of the Armed Forces, opposed by Labour and Conservative parties – who then relented only when forced by the European Court of Human Rights. The SNP are not late converts to the idea of LGBT equality.
How do you feel the recession will affect transgender services within the NHS especially on the issue of funding from NHS trusts on the issues of hormones and surgery? And will your party do anything to protect these services?
The SNP stands opposed to the public service cuts consensus of the London parties. We will aim to protect the crucial health frontline services that Scots rely on. Unlike the London parties, we have already proven that we will protect the NHS from cuts – this year, despite £400m cuts from Westminster in the Scottish budget, we have increased spending on health.