Exclusive: Gay men should receive apologies for gay convictions, says SNP deputy leader
The deputy leader of the Scottish National Party has told PinkNews that “of course” people convicted under historic anti-gay laws should receive apologies.
Angus Robertson’s comments come on the same day that the SNP announced plans to introduce its own devolved pardons law, following the UK government’s Turing Act, though did not commit to issuing apologies to those convicted.
“Of course people should receive an apology,” Robertson told PinkNews.
“Governments have shown that it’s possible to apologise for the wrongs of the past, of the previous generations of decision makers.
“I think we live in an age now, fortunately, where most, especially the newer generation of people in public life in this country, are significantly more liberal and enlightened than past generations.
“I do not understand what is difficult about apologising for the wrongs of the past. I think it would send a strong message.”
On Friday, UK Justice Minister Sam Gyimah frustrated the SNP by blocking an SNP bill to automatically pardon anyone with a conviction under the historic laws.
The government’s own bill will posthumously pardon thousands of men, but requires those surviving men with convictions to apply for pardons.
Robertson said that Gyimah’s “parliamentary tactics” were “disappointing” and “reflect badly on the government.”
The SNP deputy leader also discussed the Democratic Unionist Party’s continuing efforts to block same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland, making it the last part of the United Kingdom to not have marriage equality.
The country’s marriage laws have come under fresh scrutiny today as as the Belfast bakery that refused to make a ‘gay’ cake has lost its court appeal.
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He said: “The SNP has had serious differences with the DUP on many issues. We are a socially liberal party, they are not. We differ on that as we do on other things.
“I’m in favour of same-sex marriage, and I’m in favour of people being able to get married wherever they live. Of course one has to respect the fact that different parts of the world have different approaches to different issues, but I would very much welcome progress in Northern Ireland.
“Clearly Northern Ireland still has some way to go to join Scotland, and indeed England and Wales, and the changes that there have been in recent years.
“I think in time we will look back at the way that LGBTI people were treated in the same way as we look back at slavery and other forms of discrimination and just shake our heads, and think: ‘How could that ever have been so?’ ”
He also discussed the protection of LGBT rights under Brexit negotiations, warning that the SNP would fight to protect against the removal of any human rights under the terms of an exit from the EU.
“We oppose the erosion of rights. Full stop,” he said. “LGBTI rights, for us, are as important as all other rights.
“So I’m not going to describe a hierarchy of rights, because I don’t think they exist. I think we all have inherent human rights, whether we are in the LGBTI community or not.
“It matters for me, as a straight man, as much as I would hope it would matter for people who are part of the LGBTI community. The SNP commitment to human rights, right across the board, is absolute.”