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Language: English / Gàidhlig

Chamber and committees

Meeting of the Parliament

Meeting date: Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Agenda: Time for Reflection, Topical Question Time, Retail and Town Centres, Urgent Question, Business Motion, Parliamentary Bureau Motion, Decision Time, LGBT+ History Month


LGBT+ History Month

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Liam McArthur)

The final item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S6M-07857, in the name of Joe FitzPatrick, on celebrating LGBT+ history month. The debate will be concluded without any question being put. I invite members who wish to participate in the debate to press their request-to-speak buttons as soon as possible.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament recognises that February is LGBT+ History Month; notes that LGBT+ History Month exists to raise awareness of the LGBT+ community’s history and promote equality; welcomes the theme for 2023 LGBT+ History Month, “Behind the Lens”, which aims to celebrate LGBT+ people’s hard work and contributions made to the production of film and cinema from “behind the lens”, such as directors, producers, cinematographers, screenwriters, costume designers, musical score composers, choreographers, special effects artists, makeup artists, set designers, lighting specialists, sound specialists, and support staff, such as caterers; further welcomes LGBT+ History Month’s celebration of people in all their diversity, through raising awareness and tackling prejudice with education; understands that LGBT+ History Month is coordinated by LGBT Youth Scotland, a national charity aimed at promoting health and wellbeing among LGBTQIA young people aged 13 to 25 across the country, hosting in-person and online events in partnership with other organisations; wishes all involved every success in their endeavours, and notes the call for everyone to support the campaign and raise awareness of the part that everyone can play in making Scotland a fairer, just and more equal society for all.


Joe FitzPatrick (Dundee City West) (SNP)

I thank colleagues from all parties for the support that has allowed the motion to be debated tonight.

I begin by saying how great it is to see several members wearing the rainbow colours on what is the last day of LGBT+ history month, which follows on from purple Friday last week, on which folk were asked to wear purple in support of young LGBT+ people.

Like purple Friday, LGBT+ history month is co-ordinated in Scotland by LGBT Youth Scotland, which works to promote health and wellbeing among LGBTQIA young people across the country. Its goal is to make Scotland the best place to grow up in for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex young people. I am sure that we all share that desire, and I certainly wish that LGBT Youth Scotland had been there when I was younger.

Presiding Officer, you will see that although I am wearing the rainbow tie of the fantastic Time for Inclusive Education campaign, I have not joined colleagues in wearing a brightly coloured jacket or shirt.

In contributions for LGBT+ history month, it is customary for queer politicians to say a little about their own journey. The combination of purple Friday last week and an event at the end of last year that celebrated the National Union of Students Scotland’s 50th anniversary has helped me in that. For me, as a young student studying at Inverness College, the NUS provided the first environment in which I felt safe to be myself. That safe and welcoming environment did not happen by accident, but was the result of sustained campaigns to battle against societal homophobia, which was pervasive at that time.

That brings me to why I am wearing a denim shirt. One of the campaigns that was led by the NUS was denim day, which was held in colleges and universities across the United Kingdom. The ask was that people should wear a piece of denim to show their support for LGBT rights. Obviously, most students—then as now, I think—wore denim every day, so the campaign turned things on to their heads: as well as allies being allowed to do their best James Dean impersonation, those who opposed equalities had to go out of their way to find the cords that had never been worn since they left school. Therefore, although I am happy to reminisce about my time in the NUS, LGBT Youth Scotland’s purple Friday is an improvement on denim day and an indication of how far we have come.

The theme for LGBT+ history month 2023 is “Behind the Lens”, which aims to celebrate LGBT+ people’s hard work in and contributions to the production of film and cinema from behind the lens, such as those of directors, producers, cinematographers, screenwriters, costume designers, musical score composers, choreographers, special effects artists, make-up artists, set designers, lighting specialists, sound specialists and support staff such as caterers.

Representation matters. It matters to all communities. There has been significant progress in the Parliament, but there is still work to do.

In film and cinema, there has been an incredible shift from when I was growing up. Most of the gay characters were mocked at best, or, very often, portrayed in a sinister way. A couple of exceptions that come to mind are the 1985 film “My Beautiful Laundrette” and that first gay kiss on “EastEnders”, in 1989, which was watched by an estimated 17 million people. The significance of now MP John Nicolson’s coming out when he presented BBC’s “Breakfast” cannot be overstated. Looking back, it seems incredible that, in 1999, he was the first BBC One network news presenter to do so.

Representation matters. It is critical that we all recognise that and work to ensure equality for everyone in our society, across all sectors. Worrying political developments in places as close to home as Italy and Poland are a reminder that our rights are not guaranteed and must be protected and respected.

The election of a far-right Government in Italy—the most right-wing Government in that country since world war 2—has led to real fears that the already fragile LGBT+ rights could be eroded. I pay tribute to Marco Marras, who confronted the now Prime Minister of Italy on her LGBT+ views at a rally during the election campaign. Afterwards, Marras stated:

“we are not monsters but normal people who want basic rights.”

The now Prime Minister said at her rally:

“You want a lot of things … everyone wants things; you already have civil unions.”

Although civil unions are legal in Italy, equal marriage is not. Without progressive leadership at the top, that is unlikely to change any time soon.

In Poland, neither same-sex marriage nor civil unions are recognised and, in recent years, there has been a horrific growth in so-called LGBT-free zones there. Around a third of towns and regions in Poland passed resolutions declaring themselves free of what they call LGBT ideology. Despite legal challenges and action from the European Commission, many of those zones remain active.

We cannot be complacent. Examples from across Europe prove that nobody’s rights are guaranteed. The debate is a welcome reminder that Scotland is an open, welcoming and loving country. However, we must learn from what is happening in other countries and ensure that human rights in Scotland are never questioned or threatened.

Leadership matters, and I believe that in the Parliament we all have a responsibility to demonstrate that leadership; to represent Scotland in all of its diversity; to be welcoming and inclusive; and to not only stand up for, but speak out to advance, the rights of all.

I thank LGBT Youth Scotland not only for its incredible work in co-ordinating LGBT+ history month and purple Friday, but for the work that it does every day to improve the lives of so many people in our community.

I thank colleagues from all parties once more for their support, and I look forward to hearing contributions from members on all sides of the chamber.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Understandably, there is an awful lot of interest in the debate. I want to get everybody in, but I therefore have to ask members to stick to their four minutes, so that everyone gets an equal opportunity to speak in the debate.


Jamie Greene (West Scotland) (Con)

I am grateful to Joe FitzPatrick for bringing the debate to the chamber, in the last week of LGBT+ history month. I am afraid that my denim days are far behind me, so I apologise for that.

I start with a positive, because the past year has—let us face it—been quite a grim year for many in the LGBT community. The theme this year is “Behind the Lens”, which shines an optimistic, and quite a positive, light on the everyday lives of everyday people. In my view, as someone who used to work in television production, the power of the lens to tell a story is a force for good. If members have not seen the film “In from the Side”, from the director Matt Carter, I thoroughly recommend it.

Of course, there are people out there who say that we do not need LGBT+ history month, just as there are those out there who say that we do not need black history month, or to commemorate Holocaust memorial day or disability awareness month. However, the answer to all of the above is the same—we do so because we have to: because disability prejudice still exists, as does antisemitism, racism, homophobia and transphobia.

It is not just talking about the tragedies of the past that matters. History is what happened just a few years, months or even weeks ago. Of course we commemorate the personal sacrifices of those in the past, but we must also acknowledge the living today, and all those who still face prejudice, danger and abuse. I am afraid to say that the LGBT community still faces all the above in abundance.

I hear this a lot: people say, “I don’t mind what you get up to in your private life, but there’s no need to wave flags in my face. There’s no need to wear rainbow ties or badges, or parade down the streets, or flaunt it in the media, or teach it in our schools.” I know that, because it has been said to me more times in the past six months than at any other time in my 42 years on this earth.

History month is not just about the pioneers of the past or the freedom fighters on the fringes—it is about us here today, and our families, colleagues, friends or neighbours who are still suffering at the hands of bigotry day in, day out, be they past or present, near or far. Be they, perhaps, the young people who were having a good time in Club Q in Colorado Springs one Saturday night last November, when five of them were shot dead and 25 injured, on the day before transgender day of remembrance. Do you know what, colleagues? The next day, one so-called ally of the gay community tweeted:

“We ... stand in solidarity with LGB people worldwide against this senseless hatred.”

It was as if the T in LGBT simply did not exist. It was as if Daniel Aston, a young trans man, or Kelly Loving, a young trans woman, did not exist. It was as if they were not shot dead too, but they were.

Be they near or far: Brianna Ghey, a 16-year-old trans girl was stabbed to death in the park in Cheshire just a few weeks ago. The circumstances of that are yet to be confirmed, but we know that Brianna was abused on a daily basis, according to her friends. Mourners who were holding a vigil in her name in Birmingham just two weeks ago were met with crowds who, not happy enough that she was murdered, were chanting—I will not say the word—“F-U-C-K LGBT rights”. They were chanting abuse at people mourning the death of a 16-year-old—they must be so proud of themselves.

We have to ask ourselves if the words that have been used in this place or outwith it have inadvertently fuelled an atmosphere in which it has, once again, become normalised and acceptable to abuse people because of their sexuality or gender. The events of the past six months bear witness to some of that. That is something that I have painfully learned myself because, on the issue of gender, never before has so much been said of so few. When we use words such as “threat,”, “danger” and “risk” in the same sentence as referring to a tiny cohort of people in our society, it sticks, whether we like it or not. Words matter because they have consequences.

That is why we have LGBT+ history month. We do it because we have to. No one chooses to be murdered. No one chooses to be abused and assaulted. We can, however, choose to live unapologetically, and that is exactly what we will do.

I give a further encouragement to members to stick to their four minutes.


Emma Roddick (Highlands and Islands) (SNP)

I do not have the words to tell members how important it is that the work of LGBT Youth Scotland and other organisations is carried out, that projects such as LGBT+ history month happen and seek to bring us closer to equality, or that MSPs such as Joe FitzPatrick and others who will contribute to the debate raise awareness and speak out. That work is vital and it is not easy.

I know that there are people who think that it is easy and fun. I know that there are folk who think that I got into politics to talk about queer stuff all the time. I did not. I would much rather know that we are equal in society, are not under attack and will not face discrimination or harassment just for being who we are. I could then go and bang on about social security, transport and mental health for the Highlands and Islands in peace. However, we are not there yet.

In July, I will speak at Highland Pride—the first one since Covid. I do not know yet what I will be saying. I hope that it is that political discourse has really taken a turn and improved in the past four months and that it is great that we are seeing progress again, but I do not know whether that will be true. I am going to be as positive as possible today in the hope that it is.

The theme of this year’s history month is fascinating to me, because art and culture have a cut-through that is hard to replicate, especially in places such as the Parliament. I know now that, growing up, my love of science fiction and fantasy—particularly anything with strong queer female characters—taught me a lot more about morality, ethics and myself than I appreciated at the time. Enjoying art created by LGBTQ people is a fantastic way to understand more about our experiences—something that, no matter how great their intentions are, cisgender heterosexual people cannot completely convey with accuracy.

I have loved reading about incredible LGBTQ creatives throughout history whose stories have been boosted by this year’s theme. One that has really stuck with me is a poem written by Scottish noblewoman Marie Maitland. It is a sapphic poem written more than 400 years ago and part of it is on display at the Scottish national portrait gallery. The blog on the National Galleries Scotland website, written by Ashley Douglas, is well worth a read. Given how difficult life can still be for queer people in Scotland and how hostile so many still are to our existence, it is incredible that that poem was written and that it survived until now. It serves as a reminder of how normal and natural it is to be LGBTQ and that we have been here, queer and writing poetry, longer than anyone can remember.

Those are all things that we do not hear enough about when we talk about LGBTQ history. We hear about things such as having to hide away, the often-intentional lack of education around AIDS and safe sex and about art and resources, including those created by queer people—whether 400 years or four days ago—being banned in schools. Sadly, not a bit of that is confined to history.

As folk age, pretending that being LGBTQ is shameful or only for adults becomes even more dangerous. Young folk lack the language to tell someone about abuse. Young gay men do not know how to use a condom. Queer people do not know to test for HIV or how they would go about doing that. They also think that they are wrong and should hide. We need to get over that. It is 2023 and people are still hiding who they are. We all have a responsibility to change that and it starts with listening to us and learning from history, not repeating it.


Pam Duncan-Glancy (Glasgow) (Lab)

I thank Joe FitzPatrick for securing the debate.

This year’s theme encourages us to look “Behind the Lens” and to celebrate LGBT+ people’s contribution to film and cinema. First, it is important to think about what we would see if we looked through that lens at Scotland today. We would see hard-fought-for and hard-won LGBT rights. I am proud to say that we got there and that my party, in government, did a lot more to advance LGBT rights than any other party in history. That work included repeal of section 28, or section 2A—through one of the first acts of this Scottish Parliament—introduction for the first time of the ability of trans people to have their gender legally recognised in the UK and, of course, the Equality Act 2010, which protects LGBT+ people from discrimination. The next Labour Government is committed to matching that record.

Colleagues here—and in chambers like ours—lead the charge in Parliament, but LGBT people always deserve to claim the wins. Organisations such as Stonewall, the Scottish Trans Alliance and LGBT Youth Scotland have been fighting the fight and making the change for years. It is their lives that are impacted by the decisions that we make and the things that we say. As legislators, we must be loud and proud in our support of LGBT rights, which means unapologetically and unequivocally standing up for and protecting the rights of all LGBT people and pushing for a more progressive Scotland. LGBT people should certainly never have to fear a regression of their rights.

However, we would also see another more worrying picture through that lens—colleagues have spoken passionately about that. In recent months, LGBT people’s lives have been used to build false narratives and to stoke fear: they have been politically weaponised. The result is that most of them are feeling let down, exhausted and hurt, and some have died. We have come so far and made so much progress, but we must never be complacent. We cannot make the mistake of thinking that Scotland cannot do more and better. As allies, we must challenge anti-LGBT sentiment at every turn.

Just last week, Police Scotland issued a warning that the police are preparing for an increase in targeted attacks on LGBT people. Last year, sexual-orientation-aggravated crime was the second most commonly reported hate crime—there was a rise of 10 per cent on the previous year. There was a disturbing 87 per cent rise in trans hate crime in the same period. Those figures are shocking, but is it really any surprise that trans hate crime has risen exponentially over a period when trans people are being vilified?

If we are honest, we would see, looking through a lens at Scotland now, fractures in long-enjoyed rights, as well as despair and toxicity. Today, we can see all too clearly that our gains are fragile. Although it is hard now, I am an optimist and I believe that we can and will overcome that. One of the ways to do that is to celebrate the contribution of LGBT people, so this year’s theme could not have come at a better time. Who among us can forget how the film “Pride” made us feel and how it showed that communities can come together?

We cannot overstate the impact that representation in Parliament has meant to policy change, and we cannot overstate the value of having LGBT people behind the lens in order to improve representation in front of it. Lived experience is invaluable but, ultimately, until the arts represent us all, they are only ever a proxy for equality. We need more LGBT directors, cinematographers, screenwriters, producers, animators, costume designers and make-up artists to bring their reality to the job.

Channel 4 has long been a leader in LGBT representation on and off the screen, and there is a fear that privatisation could pose a real risk to its freedom to support independent production, such that representation and diversity would have suffered. That is why I continue to support public service broadcasters, and it is why fighting for funding for the arts is key. We need a screen industry that is fully representative, with equal opportunities for all.

As we reflect on the many fights that have been won, we can look through the lens of 2023 and see that there are many still to fight. Today, I reiterate my promise always to stand shoulder to shoulder with the LGBT community through the battles that lie ahead.


Fulton MacGregor (Coatbridge and Chryston) (SNP)

I thank my friend and colleague, Joe FitzPatrick, for bringing this debate to the chamber and for his very passionate opening speech.

As we have heard, February is LGBT+ history month, in which we have the opportunity to recognise and celebrate the experiences of the LGBT+ community in Scotland and across the UK. As members have said, this year’s theme is “Behind the Lens”, and it celebrates the contributions of LGBT+ people in cinema and film behind the scenes, including directors, musicians, artists and screenwriters.

We are fortunate to live in a country that is known for incredible art and culture, and to be surrounded by diverse talent. It is important to acknowledge the people behind the lens who tell the story and bring their ideas and experiences to the final production.

I want to put that into the context of this Parliament. As representatives, some of my colleagues have been able to talk about their own experiences: Joe FitzPatrick and others have done so eloquently. I am unable to do that, but I will say that there is a similar theme here in Parliament. I give a shout-out to anybody behind the scenes in the Parliament who is from the LGBT+ community, and I acknowledge the work that they do for us. [Applause.]

As we have heard, LGBT+ lives, particularly those of trans people, are a prevalent topic in the news. How difficult must it have been for trans people to have had to listen to some of the commentary about their community in the past few months and even years?

The theme of LGBT+ history month this year reminds us to look from behind the lens at our own lives, too. Listening to and respecting all constituents is an important aspect of my work and one that I take very seriously. I am proud to represent Coatbridge and Chryston and am committed to defending the rights of all my constituents, regardless of their gender or sexuality.

It is vital that we foster welcoming communities in order to provide people with support networks. Unfortunately, LGBT Youth Scotland has found that, in the past five years, far fewer young people—down from 81 per cent in 2017 to 65 per cent in 2022—describe Scotland as a good place to live for LGBT+ people. More than two thirds of young people surveyed in the report described transphobia in Scotland as “a really big problem”; clearly, we have far to go in terms of progress.

Recently, the United Kingdom media have dragged the name of the trans community through the mud, and have misrepresented an already marginalised community and contributed to a hostile culture. Words and stories matter, so we must prioritise trans people telling their own stories. A report from Stonewall Scotland found that, in the past 12 months, almost half of trans people—48 per cent—have experienced a hate crime or incident because of their gender identity. More often than not, those incidents go unreported.

Moreover, half of trans people are apprehensive about using public toilets because of fear of discrimination. That is particularly prevalent among younger people, who are largely unaware of their rights regarding discrimination. The Scottish Parliament must continue to educate people and to promote a culture of empathy and inclusivity.

In taking the opportunity to look back at Scotland’s history this LGBT+ history month, it is clear to see that we have come a long way. I am proud to be a member of a party that prioritises equality and human rights, regardless of identity. Just over 20 years after repealing section 28, Scotland became the first country in the world to embed LGBT+ inclusive education across the curriculum.

There is currently a process to select our party leader and First Minister. Contrary to the media commentary, I know that we will, as a membership party, continue to be progressive.

Young LGBT+ people should be able to see themselves in their education, as their peers can. The Scottish Government’s commitment to including such representation in everyday life is a standard that should be followed elsewhere.

The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014 meant legalisation of same-sex marriage. That is a landmark policy that is improving the rights of thousands of Scots. Legislation including the Gender Recognition Act 2004 and the Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Act 2021 show a strong commitment to gender equality, which is something that I will continue to strongly support. There is no place in Scotland for prejudice or discrimination, so the Scottish Parliament should continue to fight against them and promote progress.

Looking forward, I think that we must widen the lens to incorporate often hidden and misrepresented identities including transgender, non-binary, asexual and intersex people. In my role as a representative, I will always do what I can to defend the rights of others.

Again, I appeal to members to stick to their four minutes.


Karen Adam (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)

I congratulate Joe FitzPatrick on securing the debate.

With this year’s theme of LGBT+ history month being “Behind the Lens”, I begin by paying tribute to the writers, actors, directors, producers, composers, choreographers, costume designers and so many others who have played a part in telling the stories and histories of LGBT+ people through the media of film and television. I particularly want to thank the screen journalists who have taken the time and care to learn the too-often tragic stories of our diverse community—in particular, those who have given trans people the space to tell their own stories in their own words.

Cinema and television play crucial roles in telling our stories. On-screen representation matters and has the power to change our communities for good or to do serious damage. How our stories are told can change how we feel about ourselves by altering what we feel capable of being and becoming. Positive representation has the power to create positive change, but the opposite can lead to tragedy.

I do not think that we need to be reminded of how much the media have capitalised on fear of trans people in recent months, so I want to take a moment to remember Brianna Ghey, who was a 16-year-old transgender girl, whom my colleagues have also mentioned and whose name we cannot say enough. Her brutal killing is being investigated as a possible hate crime. Her parents described her as

“a larger-than-life character who would leave a lasting impression on all that met her.”

The deadnaming and misgendering of Brianna in the wake of her death were unacceptable and must have caused unnecessary anguish to all those who knew and loved her. I hope that the society that we hope to build will respect the dignity of all, especially within the walls of Parliament, where we should set an example.

Since devolution, Scotland has been building, on the world stage, its reputation for holding liberal values and ensuring human rights. Our Scottish Government has delivered the most progressive and extensive equal marriage legislation, and has opened up adoption and in vitro fertilisation to same-sex couples and reformed blood-donation rules. Scotland was the first country in the UK to approve provision of pre-exposure prophylaxis on the national health service and to deliver a pardon for historical homosexual offences. The First Minister gave a categorical unequivocal and whole-hearted apology for that wrong, which had been committed by the state.

After years of scrutiny, several public consultations and an avalanche of disinformation, our Parliament voted to reform the Gender Recognition Act 2004 to make the process of obtaining a gender recognition certificate simpler and less invasive. It was an historic vote that was welcomed by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. I am proud of the work that we on the Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee did in scrutinising the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill. I am also proud that a supermajority voted for the bill at its final stage.

Scotland continues to forge a distinct identity of unapologetic progressiveness on the world stage. I believe that it is for that reason that Westminster has used a section 35 order to, once again, deny democracy and stifle progress. Come what may, I promise to continue to do all that I can to defend the rights that we have won and to fight for those that we have not won.

LGBT history month provides an opportunity for us to look back and, I hope, to take some comfort in the knowledge that, just as we prevailed in relation to decriminalisation, the age of consent, section 28 and equal marriage, we will prevail again.

It is the responsibility of us all to advance our human rights. In the words of LGBT freedom fighter Marsha P Johnson,

“History isn’t something you look back at and say it was inevitable, it happens because people make decisions that are sometimes very impulsive and of the moment, but those moments are cumulative realities.”


Maggie Chapman (North East Scotland) (Green)

I thank Joe FitzPatrick for securing this important debate.

There is never space for complacency when we celebrate LGBT+ history month. We—those of us who are listening—know that truth more acutely this year than we have for a very long time. LGBTQIA+ history is not a gentle story of steady progress, of education followed by awareness, of recognition leading to rights, or of a joyful journey out of the wilderness and into the sunny uplands. No. There is a reason why we speak of liberation struggles; it is because they truly are a struggle.

There are times of progress, when overlapping, interdependent and mutually supportive communities feel as though we are really moving forward. The first LGBT history month—which was in 1994 in the US and in 2005 in Scotland—felt, for some, like one of those times: when the LGBTQIA+ community could relax a little, breathe a little and take some time to look back at transformative moments and the people who made them happen.

However, those good times are interspersed with times of regression, of oppression and hatred, of cruelty and ignorance, and of damage that, once done, takes generations to heal. Those times, by no coincidence, so often happen in periods of social anxiety and strife, tension, fear and conflict. They are times when Governments, ideologically committed to austerity and division, and to the enhancement of the rich and the immiseration of the poor, seek scapegoats for the anger that they have shaped—and they find them.

They find them among people of colour, in black and Gypsy Traveller communities, among migrants and refugees, in neighbourhoods of high deprivation, among those entitled to social security, and among those with experience of homelessness, care and incarceration. They also find them, over and over again, among LGBTQIA+ people.

That is why, wisely, the learning resources from LGBT Youth Scotland are, this year, focusing on the legacy of section 28. We need to remember not only those who courageously campaigned against it—against the deliberate damage to children that was so cynically framed as their protection—but the many who did not. I thank LGBT Youth Scotland for its on-going and tireless work.

We have woeful memories, sometimes. We imagine, or are told, or comfort ourselves with the lie, that this has not happened before. We pretend that rights that we now accept were always uncontroversial, except among those whom we dismiss as the enemy. We conveniently forget how contested they were, perhaps within our own tradition, and how uncomfortable they made people feel. We forget that there is no human right to feel comfortable.

Therefore, this year, as we stand in solidarity and love with our trans friends and relatives—those bearing the brutal burden of today’s moral panic, media obsession and political opportunism—LGBT+ history month matters more than ever before, not as a source of celebration, but as a source of challenge. The challenge is one of solidarity and of resistance to those shameful attempts to divide—to set one group against another—as though our rights to live and love and flourish were a thin purse of tawdry coins.

We are rightly shocked when we hear those dusty old arguments against same-sex marriage dredged up once again from history’s filing cabinet, but we should be just as horrified by attempts to normalise transphobic rhetoric, especially as we know, heartbreakingly, that it does not end with rhetoric alone.

There is no end to history, as Fukuyama learned, and certainly no end to this one. The struggles go on, and there is work to be done, in the chamber and in the world outside.

We have learned some bitter lessons from the past few months about the ephemerality of easy promises and the collapse of consensus when the going gets tough. For many with whom we share both grief and hope, the going has never been harder. We in the Scottish Greens stand resolutely with you—with all of you.


Paul McLennan (East Lothian) (SNP)

I thank Joe FitzPatrick for bringing this important debate to the chamber.

In the past 12 months, between one in four and one in five LGBT+ people has experienced a hate crime or incident due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. In the same period, almost half of trans people—48 per cent—have experienced a hate crime or incident because of their gender identity, and that figure is increasing. More than four in five LGBT+ people—87 per cent—who experience a hate crime or incident do not report it to the police, and one in eight LGBT+ people who visited a cafe, restaurant, bar or nightclub in the past 12 months was discriminated against because of their sexual orientation and/or their gender identity.

Pam Duncan-Glancy mentioned the statement that was issued by Police Scotland only two weeks ago. Its heading was:

“Community Tensions and Concerns—Message to Communities”.

The statement said:

“Police Scotland is aware of increased community tensions and concerns within our LGBT+ communities following events and incidents across Scotland and the United Kingdom.”

That is the context in which we find ourselves today—we still have a lot to do.

LGBT+ history month has an on-going narrative of claiming our past, celebrating our present and creating our future. LGBT+ history month is marked across the UK throughout February as an opportunity to connect, to reflect on the past and present of the LGBT+ community, to celebrate LGBT+ culture and progress towards equality over time, and to explore what lessons history can teach us for the future.

Over the past few decades, we have seen a steady increase in social acceptance of lesbian, gay and bi relationships, and a steady increase in the percentage of the population that identifies as lesbian, gay, bi or trans. Last year, Stonewall’s “Rainbow Britain” report showed that Scotland and the UK are fiercely proud to be inclusive. Many are free to be themselves in every area of their lives.

The report goes on to focus on the stark differences between the generations, as more younger people identify as lesbian, gay, bi and trans. In the context of last year’s LGBT history month debate, I was contacted by a 75-year-old gay man, who had feared to speak out about his identity and who he was, over many long years. I met him for a coffee and was impressed to hear how he had put up with and dealt with that situation for so long.

According to the Stonewall report, only 71 per cent of people from gen Z identify as straight, compared with 91 per cent of baby boomers. Some 14 per cent of young people identify as bi or pansexual, compared with just 2 per cent of baby boomers. When we look beyond the label and ask about who people are attracted to, we see that the picture is even more dramatic. The report says that just 53 per cent of gen Z are exclusively straight and that 40 per cent have a pattern of attraction that could be described as queer. It states:

“This suggests that in a single lifetime we may have travelled from a world in which lesbian, gay, bi and queer relationships were hidden and LGBTQ+ people were criminalised, to one in which we are a thriving and growing community.”

A few statements in the report resonated with me and made me proud to speak in the debate. The report speaks of a rainbow nation and goes on to describe

“a society in which LGBTQ+ people are coming out to ourselves and the world around us in ever greater numbers, and a world in which every community and every family is building bonds of love and friendship with LGBTQ+ people.”

Our rainbow nation is the present and the future. We are here. We are proud.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Thank you. As I said, I want to ensure that every member who has expressed an interest in speaking in the debate has the opportunity to do so. A number of members still want to contribute, so I am minded to accept a motion without notice under rule 8.14.3 to extend the debate by up to 30 minutes.

Motion moved,

That, under Rule 8.14.3, the debate be extended by up to 30 minutes.—[Joe FitzPatrick]

Motion agreed to.

That is not an invitation to members to go beyond their four minutes.


Marie McNair (Clydebank and Milngavie) (SNP)

It is a pleasure to speak in this debate to mark LGBT+ history month, and I congratulate Joe FitzPatrick on securing the debate and on his thoughtful and passionate opening speech. I pay tribute to his work as convener of the Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee.

LGBT+ history month is marked in February, across the UK, as an opportunity to connect with and reflect on the past and present of the LGBT+ community, celebrate LGBT+ culture and progress towards equality, and explore the lessons that history can teach us for the future. This year’s UK theme celebrates LGBT+ people’s contribution to cinema and film from behind the lens.

In my constituency, the rainbow flag was raised at Solidarity Plaza in Clydebank to mark LGBT+ history month. That has been happening since 2008. The initiative has cross-party support in recognition of the need to maintain the momentum of equality.

I pay tribute to all LGBT+ constituents, groups, organisations and campaigners for equality. Much has been achieved by strong, determined and resolute campaigning. Now, Scotland is considered one of the most progressive countries in Europe when it comes to LGBT+ equality.

That equality has been hard fought for and the journey has been difficult for many people. Over that journey, the repeal of section 28 was secured and the Adoption and Children (Scotland) Act 2007 extended the right to adopt to same-sex couples. The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill was passed on 4 February 2014 and the first same-sex marriage took place on 31 December 2014—the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014 is considered to be one of the most progressive such laws in the world. The Historical Sexual Offences (Pardons and Disregards) (Scotland) Act 2018 pardoned men who had been historically convicted as a result of same-sex activity and put in place a system whereby such convictions may be removed from the record and disregarded. The Census (Amendment) (Scotland) Act 2019 introduced into the census, for the first time, questions on sexual orientation and trans status. In addition, Scotland is the first country to embed LGBT-inclusive education in the curriculum.

We must celebrate the progress that has been made and remember the people who did so much to ensure that it was achieved. However, lessons have been learned that show that we cannot be complacent. The Equality Network highlights that our LGBT community

“experience high levels of hate crime”.

We must drive on with the message of zero tolerance towards hateful behaviour.

The current impasse regarding the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill must be fixed. We must move to end conversion practices in Scotland, and we must strive instead to support and celebrate people for who they are.

It is clear that Scotland has made significant progress since way back, when the decriminalisation of homosexuality came into force in 1981, but we must keep going, to ensure that we do not take a step backwards. Let us all be honest: recent debates have created a difficult atmosphere for our LGBT+ community, which should be a real cause for concern. Even more than ever, Parliament’s message must be loud and clear: that we want to secure equality for our LGBT+ community. The journey is not finished.

In the contributions that we make in this debate on LGBT+ history month, we can show that we have learned the lessons of history and that we promote an inclusive and progressive Scotland that secures the talents of all our people.


Paul O’Kane (West Scotland) (Lab)

I begin by thanking Joe FitzPatrick for bringing the debate to the chamber this evening as we mark LGBT+ history month 2023.

It is good, once again, to have an opportunity to speak about the rich and diverse history of LGBT+ people here in Scotland and around the world. Ours is a story often marked by pain and struggle, but also by love, solidarity and joy. I am sure that, like so many, we are thinking of our own histories and our own moments on the journey—the good and the bad, the painful and the joyful. We think on the progress that we have made, here in Scotland and around the world. We take stock with pride, but we also look forward to what we still have to do to create a more equal society for all LGBT+ people.

As we have already heard, the theme for this year’s history month is “Behind the Lens”. It is not only a celebration of LGBT+ people’s contribution to creating cinema and film; it is also a call to look behind the lens and to listen to all LGBT+ people’s lived experiences, particularly when, as we have heard, their lives are in the media, so sharply and so darkly, over the past year.

That is a really good way to approach the month: to get behind the lens of the world that we live in and to understand how we created this Scotland that we live in: a Scotland where LGBT+ people can be accepted for who they are, a Scotland where section 2A lies in the dustbin of history, and a Scotland where I could say “I do” to my husband, surrounded by our friends and family, joined together legally by the state—and, for us, blessed by the love of God.

Behind the lens of this happy image we must remind ourselves of the struggles to make it a reality, remembering those in this place who stood up and spoke out, and those outside who marched and wrote and persuaded. We should remind ourselves that it was not always this way. For too many in the world, it still is not, and we have more to do. It is not so long ago that being gay was a crime in this country. It is not so long ago that the state actively sought to imprison people for who they were and who they loved.

One of my favourite poets is Edwin Morgan, the first makar, who addressed the Parliament in verse as this building was opened in 2004, a man who came out at the age of 70. Edwin Morgan wrote some of the most beautiful love poetry I have ever read. I have a copy of “Strawberries” on the wall of my office upstairs:

“the taste of strawberries
in my memory
lean back again
let me love you

let the sun beat
on our forgetfulness
one hour of all
the heat intense
and summer lightning
on the Kilpatrick hills

let the storm wash the plates”.

I read that poem through the lens of a love between two men finding love in the simple things of everyday life and everyday relationships. Morgan did not gender his poem, however, and that adds a universality, but it also speaks of a different time: a time in our history when the love that he so beautifully describes was hidden and had to be hidden. Those days may seem distant for so many people in Scotland today, but they are all too real for many LGBT+ people around the world. That is a reminder to all of us that rights are hard fought for and hard won. They are also fragile, and it is on all of us in this place to protect and enhance them, to row forward and build that more equal society that we would all wish to see.

As this LGBT+ history month comes to a close, let us all acknowledge the past, stand up and speak out in our present and seek to build a more equal future.


Jackie Dunbar (Aberdeen Donside) (SNP)

I am pleased and honoured to speak in this important debate. I congratulate Joe FitzPatrick on bringing it to the chamber, and I thank him for all his continuous work and his support for equality.

Given the rise of the political right around the globe, there is no more important time to promote LGBT+ rights and to reflect on the long, drawn-out struggle to achieve LGBT+ equality, both here and around our planet. Scotland, under the leadership of Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish National Party, is a world leader in promoting equality, fairness and respect. The current Scottish Government has those values at its heart, and that must never change. Scotland is a diverse country with welcoming communities, where we value diversity and Scotland’s LGBT+ community, and that must always be the case.

In preparing for the debate, I reflected on some of the history of tackling LGBT+ discrimination in Scotland, and I think that this is worth highlighting. I recalled that, in 2005, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender was made illegal. In 2009, equal rights were given to same-sex couples who were applying for adoption. Just in 2019, this Parliament unanimously passed the Historical Sexual Offences (Pardons and Disregards) (Scotland) Act 2018, which allowed for gay people to be pardoned for their historical convictions, which were based on outdated legislation that targeted the LGBT+ community simply because of their sexual orientation. We have also enshrined the TIE campaign in Scots law.

Through all those measures, we have taken Scotland far on the journey to being a fairer, accepting and inclusive nation. However, around the world, it is sad to say, LGBT people still continue to face widespread stigma, exclusion and discrimination. Although we in Scotland and the UK do not see discrimination on the scale that it exists in many other countries, the rights of LGBT+ people—indeed, their very existence—are still a topic of debate. That is, to be frank, unacceptable. Today, and always, I want to be clear that I do not, in any way, debate LGBT+ rights, and I agree that society should not either. The LGBT+ community will always have an ally in me. I also appeal to aabodie to carefully consider the language that is used in these discussions.

For something as simple as falling in love, I take it for granted that I will not be judged, yet those in the LGBTQ community are unable to have that same simple privilege, and today still have to fight for the right not to be judged.

Last night, I watched a video that Mhairi Black MP posted on social media, in which she was asked about representation and role models, and about who her lesbian heroine is. My lesbian heroine is, I am proud to say, my strong, independent, fun-loving daughter, who has to fight every single day to be accepted in the eyes of some, although thankfully not most. Those eyes have no right to judge her sexuality, as it does not and will not affect them in any way. I will fight to my dying day for her right to be who she is, and to protect that right.

Today, I reaffirm my support for the progress that the Parliament has made in bringing about equality for all across the LGBT+ community. That progress must be built on, and we must continue to stand up for LGBT+ rights around the globe.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

I thank members for sticking broadly to the time limits that I imposed at the start of the debate. In that spirit, I invite the minister to respond to the debate for around seven minutes.


The Minister for Equalities and Older People (Christina McKelvie)

Thank you, Presiding Officer—it is indeed an honour to close the debate, not least for that last contribution from my friend Jackie Dunbar, but I will cover every member’s contribution as I move on.

Today, we are marking this year’s LGBT+ history month. I have found members’ contributions insightful and thought provoking. As a cis, straight and privileged white woman, I never underestimate the impact of my privilege and how I can use it in ways to support my colleagues, my community and our nation.

I commend my friend and colleague Joe FitzPatrick for securing the debate and for all his work in advancing equality not just in the Parliament but everywhere he goes. Many colleagues have highlighted why it is important to protect and advance the hard-won equality and rights of Scotland’s LGBTI community. Joe FitzPatrick told us about NUS denim day. I wonder how many of us are thinking about the denim jacket or the pair of jeans hiding at the back of the wardrobe and whether to dig them back out. You never know: we could have a dress-down day in Parliament for denim day.

I acknowledge the courage and dedication of the organisations and individuals working to improve LGBTI equality across Scotland. We are in a rough place right now, but we will prevail. I say to LGBT Youth Scotland, the Equality Network, the Scottish trans alliance, Stonewall and all the other LGBT organisations that we—their Parliament and their parliamentarians—stand with them.

Today is a day for celebrating our achievements as a nation and reaffirming our commitment to making Scotland a country in which LGBT people feel safe, respected and free to be themselves in our rainbow nation. MSPs such as Marie McNair and Jackie Dunbar have heralded our progress in respect of same-sex marriage, adoption, historical pardons and our census and in many more areas.

This year’s LGBT+ history month theme, “Behind the Lens”, highlights the hard work and achievements of LGBTI people in Scotland both on and off screen. They provide role models and much-needed representation across a vast range of jobs in the creative arts.

Emma Roddick spoke about a poem in the Scottish national portrait gallery, and Paul O’Kane blessed us with the wonderful poem “Strawberries”. Karen Adam made a call to our creative sectors to continue to tell stories.

We recognise that the screen sector can lead the way in promoting equality for LGBTI people while highlighting historical issues for the LGBTI community. Media can play a key role in breaking down the cultural and social barriers that contribute to social inequality.

The significance of my friend Lord Michael Cashman’s kiss on “Eastenders” in 1989 was not lost on any of us. That was at a time when homophobia and transphobia were rife and section 28 was on our minds. That was brought in in 1988. Paul O’Kane reminded us that we should remember that. We should remember the progress that we have made from that, and we should never regress.

I will outline some of our current activity that is aimed at improving the lives of LGBTI people, as they need our actions, not our words. As Pam Duncan-Glancy and Maggie Chapman reminded us, we must never be complacent. I agree. That is why we are embedding LGBTI education across the school curriculum. Doing that improves the learning environment for all children and young people so that they learn and understand tolerance, respect and equality. It helps them to build healthy relationships and prevents prejudice.

I am sure that Marie McNair and others will welcome what I am about to say about an issue that they brought up. Through legislation to end conversion practices, we are taking definitive action to protect LGBTI people from harmful, damaging and destructive acts that seek to change or suppress their sexual orientation or gender identity. There is no place in a modern Scotland for such abhorrent practices. In ensuring those vital protections, Scotland will rightly be part of global momentum against those practices.

We are committed to improving NHS Scotland specialist gender identity healthcare. Our NHS gender identity services strategic action plan, which was published in December 2021, sets out some of the work that we are taking forward to improve those services. We have much work to do.

We also recognise that we must do more for non-binary people in Scotland. We are working to bring about real, positive and lasting change to the lives of non-binary people through the upcoming non-binary equality action plan, which is due to be published in the coming months. I am sure that all members will welcome that.

Fulton MacGregor praised the work of the Parliament on human rights, and he is absolutely right to do so. Our new human rights bill, which is to be introduced during this parliamentary session, follows on from the recommendations of the national task force for human rights leadership and will include provision to ensure equal access for everyone, including LGBTI people, to the substantive rights that are contained in the bill.

Shortly, we will publish our new hate crime strategy, which will set out our priorities for tackling hatred and prejudice in Scotland. We know all too well—many members have spoken of this today—the damaging and corrosive impact that such behaviour can have, and we remain absolutely resolute in our commitment to tackling hatred and prejudice in all its forms. We do so for Daniel, Kelly, Raymond, Derrick, Ashley, Brianna and many other LGBTQI folk who face so much hatred, as highlighted by Jamie Greene and Maggie Chapman.

Paul McLennan told us disgraceful statistics about homophobic and transphobic hate crimes. Some groups seem to be aligned with fascist and racist organisations, which should be a cause of concern for us all.

We recognise that some people have reasons to doubt their representation in history or feel left out of Scotland’s story, so LGBT history month provides an opportunity to set that right. We have done that today—I am so proud of our Parliament for doing so. We recognise the vital contribution that creative LGBTI people make to Scotland. We have come a long way in our work to make Scotland a more inclusive and equal country.

As all colleagues have said today, we still have much more to fight for and there is much more to be done. The Scottish Government is committed to working with members from across the chamber to make Scotland a truly inclusive country for all LGBTI people and one in which everyone feels safe to be themselves.

As we go into Pride season—it seems to stretch over many months now, which is fantastic—we must remember that Pride is a protest. We should use our collective voices to reassert the meaning of Pride: professionalism, respect, integrity, diversity and excellence. We have much work to do, so let us do it with pride.

Meeting closed at 18:21.