Nicola Sturgeon: ‘ECHR battle has to be fought separately from EU’
As part of our election coverage, PinkNews spent time with the main political party leaders in Scotland. First up is Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the Scottish National Party and the country’s current First Minister.
Joining the party at 16, Nicola Sturgeon has risen the ranks and is now one of the longest serving members of Scottish Parliament. Taking over the reins from Alex Salmond, who resigned following the Independence Referendum, the First Minister hopes to return to Holyrood with another majority. She has promised to continue fighting for LGBT equality and enact a variety of policies if returned as the head of the Scottish Government.
We caught up with the First Minister in Edinburgh and asked her some questions to help LGBT Scots decide if the SNP are the party for them.
Inclusive education, why has it not been introduced yet?
I guess there is a lot of different reasons. There has been a number of priorities over the last parliament around LGBTI rights, but I think there is still lots of things for us to do. I think that inclusive education is something that will be an issue in the next parliament.
At my party conference recently, there was a good and really moving debate on inclusive education and I certainly want to see us do more to introduce that and promote that.
I know at the SNP conference there was a motion that passed to bring it in. How quickly do you think it will be introduced?
I keen. I’ve been really impressed with the Time of Inclusive Education (TIE) campaign, so I’m really keen to work with them to make sure we do it right, that we do it properly and that it’s not just something we do in a tokenistic way.
So I would like to see us have it as a priority in terms of moving forward in the next parliament.
It’s been put to us that the reason the SNP have been holding it off is because there are donors to the party that campaigned against the repeal of Section 28 (Section 2A in Scotland).
I mean, that’s just nonsense.
Some people said that’s why we wouldn’t introduce equal marriage and they were proved wrong on that. The SNP’s record on LGBT rights is a very, very strong one.
I think, as far as I’m aware, we’ve become the first party in the UK to commit to a review of gender recognition laws. So, the idea that we take positions on, whether it’s education or any other aspect of LGBTI rights, for those reasons it flatly wrong. And it’s been proven to be wrong.
Why has PrEP not been introduced in Scotland?
Again, these are things that we haven’t done, not because it’s not important but because, perhaps we’ve been pursuing other priorities. I’m keen that we have these issues properly aired in the next parliament.
In regards to PrEP. The SNP have consistently campaigned for, first independence then more powers under the Scotland Act, why is it with PrEP though, you are willing to accept NHS England’s decision not to roll it out and not take a decision on your own?
I am keen that we take our own decisions and that we debate these issues in parliament and certainly don’t take a view that we will not do things because they aren’t done in England. That’s not my position.
So does that mean you could see yourself differing from NHS England’s decision?
They have put a further two year testing in place, does that mean that won’t happen in Scotland?
It’s not necessarily the case that we would follow that in Scotland. I think we will take our own decisions.
If you are returned as First Minister, within the Scottish Government would you look to introduce gender neutral pronouns and roll it out?
I’m very open to all of that. What we’ve said is that we think there should be a review of gender recognition law and I think it’s important that when commit to a review of something, you don’t immediately preempt the outcome of the review.
I would though go into that with an open mind.
Would that mean you could look to campaign the UK Government on gender neutral passports?
I’m happy to hear the case for that, yeah.
It’s not something that we are responsible for, but equally we have never shied away from campaigning for things that are UK Government responsibilities.
If people want to have gender neutral passports…I think there is a debate whether everybody should have to have a gender neutral passport, but if people want that then it’s certainly something we’d been keen to look at and consider.
In regards to the EU, do you think that staying in the EU is important for LGBT Scots?
Not exclusively so, but yes, I think I do.
One of the reasons why I think it’s important to stay in the EU is around social and employment rights that the EU has introduced and protected.
I think different countries will take their own decisions on things, we touched on some of that already, but, it’s important there is a sort of common understanding of rights across the European Union. I think that membership of the EU guarantees that.
Something we’ve been talking about is in regards to the EU, being in it means we have to be part of the ECHR [sic: European Court of Human Rights], which means Westminster can’t touch it. This means that LGBT rights are effectively protected. Leaving the EU means we could be forced out…
I think it’s important to understand the difference to being in the EU and the ECHR. I don’t think being in the EU means it is. Unfortunately, we might see the UK Government actually not protect the ECHR. The UK Government want to repeal the Human Rights Act and want to come out of the ECHR even if we don’t come out of the EU.
I think it’s important to stay in the EU, but I think we shouldn’t assume that a vote to stay in the EU protects the ECHR. I think that the two are different things and that battle has to be fought separately.
What did you think of Boris Johnson’s remarks, where he basically said leaving the EU would be safer for LGBT citizens?
I didn’t actually see his comments, so I don’t know what he was meaning. But, you know, you could argue that staying in doesn’t better protect that it’s down to governments, but equally saying that coming out would better protect is nonsense.
Looking a bit wider, at conference you said this summer will see renewed talks about independence. What are you hoping to get?
I hope over time to build a majority for independence.
Over the summer as we start that process, it will be as much about listening as it is about us talking. Listening to and responding to some of the reasons why people who might have been persuaded to vote yes in the last referendum, didn’t vote yes.
Until we understand those reasons and are able to address those reasons, we won’t build a majority in the future.
Could you see these discussions leading to a second referendum?
I think there will be a second referendum at some point, but I’m not able to say what the time scale will be. I think that there will be a second referendum when there is a sense that the majority of the country want independence.
When you say a majority, are you judging that on opinion polls?
There are plenty of opinion polls. You would get the sense of that through opinion polls, but I’m not talking about one or two. I’m talking about fairly settled support.
We’ve first got to persuade the people we didn’t persuade last time. I’m totally openly accept there are lots of people who are not open to persuasion, just like I’m not open to persuasion that independence is not the right thing.
I accept that and respect that, but there are lots of people who might have been persuaded to vote yes the last time, who for what ever reason weren’t and those are the people I’m keen to have a conversation with and who hopefully I can persuade in the future.
Lastly, who is your favourite trans celebrity?
Erm…Eddie Izzard. Yeah, I like Eddie Izzard.
Are you a fan of Caitlyn Jenner?
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Even with her politics?
I’m not a fan of her politics at all. Obviously.
PinkNews’ Scottish Election coverage is sponsored by the Royal Bank of Scotland.
Elections to the Scottish Parliament take place on Thursday, May 5.