On March 1st, we sent out a detailed questionnaire to all three leadership candidates asking them questions derived from our membership. We are pleased to be able to share Ash’s responses with you.
Section 1: Priorities as FM
1.1 Will you defend the Gender Recognition Reform Bill against the section 35 order?
I will not seek a Judicial Review of the S35 order that has prevented Royal Assent to GRR Bill. I have set out my plan to take GRR to a Citizens Assembly to allow the representative voice of Scotland to inform legislators of a workable approach to balance rights and protects for all of our people, when there is appetite to do so.
1.2 Do you support equal marriage and would you defend this policy from any challenges?
I unequivocally support equal marriage and believe firmly that love is love and should be celebrated and supported between consenting adults.
1.3 Are you committed to ensuring that access to early medical abortion at home is maintained?
1.4 Are you committed to ensuring that abortion care is available up to 24 weeks uniformly across Scotland
1.5 Are you committed to seeing the Hate Crime Bill implemented in full as soon as possible?
Given this bill achieved Royal Assent almost 2 years ago, it’s important to understand why it has as yet been unable to be implemented and learn those lessons for this and future legislation. Legislation can only protects people if it is implementable.
1.6 Bearing in mind that hate crime in Scotland has seen a dramatic increase against both trans people and the broader LGBTQ+ community, how will you address transphobia in Scottish society more broadly?
The key to addressing any problem is to fully understand it, as this gives assurances that the solutions you implement will achieve their objectives without unintended negative outcomes. Our society must work cohesively to protect everyone’s human rights which are universal.
1.7 Are you committed to seeing through the reforms in the NHS Gender Identity Services: Strategic Action Framework 2022-2024?
Again it’s key to first understand in detail the framework and ensure all aspects of any changes achieve their objectives of making lives better. I endeavour to engage widely to ensure reforms are robustly considered, good practice implemented and measured to ensure they work as designed.
1.8 What additional measures will you make to improve access to trans health care and reduce wait times?
The SNHS and care system are crucial to ensure that we have a robust health and care system with a supported workforce that can continue to deliver the best medical care to all in the most timely manner. The front line cannot survive on goodwill and we must support them to support us.
1.9 Will you take action on the recommendations of the non-binary working group and will you work toward recognition of non-binary identities
I will work constructively with any group who will work constructively with me.
1.10 Are you committed to improving funding and services for LGBTQ+ people who face domestic violence?
Domestic violence has no place in our society and everyone must be able to live safely in their homes. I will work constructively with LGBTQ+ community to understand more of their particular need for services and we will work constructively on solutions to meet the needs of victims and support staff.
1.11 Will you convene a working group for intersex Scots to inform future policy?
It is critical that no Scot new or old is left behind in our society and we must ensure that any working group represents all members of a community or communities who share a common purpose. DSD and CAIS communities are among those who have expressed concern of terminology but I’m sure we can find consensus to work constructively to common purpose.
1.12 Will you commit to implementing a National HIV Testing Week as supported by the Terrence Higgins Trust?
Preventative awareness and early access to medical treatments are essential if we are to ensure people can thrive. National HIV Testing Week, Breast, cervical, prostate, bowel screening awareness, are all excellent steps towards early detection and treatment of diseases that devastates lives.
1.13 What further steps will you take – both in terms of sexual health services and services for intravenous drug users – to eradicate HIV transmission in Scotland?
Sexual health education is crucial at age appropriate stages in both formal education settings in connection with parental knowledge to support our Scottish curriculum in the home. Scotland has a serious problem with drug addiction and this will take serious solutions. We must push devolution to its walls to tackle this now and expedite our readiness for independence for real societal change in how we treat addiction to eradicate HIV transmission and other consequences of drug use.
1.14 Will you commit to tackling the disproportionate rate of homelessness among LGBTQ+ people, especially young people, both by funding services and research?
Homeless should not be a problem in resource rich Scotland but it is. Independence allows us to invest in real systemic changes but we must act now. An individual is free to identify how they choose to live and love so this should not disadvantage individuals on solutions for homelessness. There are many reasons for homelessness that cut across all protect characteristics and none and together we must find workable solutions for them.
1.15 Will you continue to support and further the Scottish Government’s commitment to LGBTQ+ inclusive education?
Education of children must be in partnership with schools and families and to do this successfully takes good communication. I will support furthering the work across education to provide resources to schools, pupils and families to work together to achieve our common aim of safe school communities where children learn to work together and where abuse of any kind is not accepted.
Section 2: Legislative Priorities
2.1 Will you support reform to the law to make the process of surrogacy easier and fairer for both intended parents and surrogates?
Surrogacy is a very sensitive process which must be handled with utmost understanding and care to all concerned to mitigate risk of damaging outcomes for any or all concerned. The child must be the primary focus for safeguarding. The experience of those who have been through this most intimate process must be sought to fully understand what the best way forward is.
2.2 Will you present a bill to parliament comprehensively banning conversion therapy in line with the recommendations of the Expert Advisory Group?
I will look in detail at any proposals to ensure we put dignity, respect and consent at the heart of any process of support services. The presentation of complex health concerns must be fully understood and treated with a patient focus for good outcomes.
2.3 Are you committed to passing legislation to implement buffer zones around healthcare facilities?
Yes, as I’ve said above, we must put dignity, respect and consent at the heart of any process of support services, including abortions services. Abuse of service users and staff must be prevented with appropriate safeguarding including buffer zones.
2.4 Will you legislate for a ban on non-essential, non-consensual medical procedures on intersex Scots (particularly infant genital ‘sexing’ or cosmetic procedures)?
Paediatric healthcare must always put the needs of the child and their best outcomes first. I am committed to ensuring our incredible SNHS is co-designed with front line workforce to ensure that medics, not managers make decisions impacting clinical outcomes.
2.5 Will you ensure that LGBTQ+ rights are fully incorporated into the new Human Rights Bill for Scotland?
The current Equality Act has 9 protected characters and carefully balances rights and protections across them as people are largely not defined by one aspect of their self — human beings are richly complex. Rights and protections may straddle multiple protected characteristics or none but we all deserve the safety to live outlives in peace. I believe a Citizens Assembly will ensure an independent Scotland shows the world our values of both inclusivity and the safeguarding of our vulnerable as the foundation of protection of our universal Human Rights.
Section 3: Priorities as Party Leader
3.1 Will you march with us at Pride?
Yes I would love to.
3.2 Are you committed to improving and modernising the party’s code of conduct and constitution to include LGBT discrimination?
I have proposed my SNP Action Plan which includes modernity and transparency as I believe the only way to protect any of us is to create a culture, underpinned by a system, that protects all of us.
3.3 Are you committed to reforming how affiliate organisations are funded within the party?
I will prioritise our internal party workings to understand what works and what needs work and look forward to meeting with all our affiliate groups to discuss they views on both reforms and funding.
3.4 Are you committed to improving transparency, safeguarding, and welfare for HQ staff and operations?
My SNP Action Plan is designed to ensure we create a culture, underpinned by a system, that protects all of us including out HQ staff team. It is the duty of our NEC to direct our staff and if I am elected leader of the party and NEC I will ensure that duty is upheld, with transparency, safeguarding, and welfare of staff at the heart.
3.5 Are you committed to ensuring that at least one national council is held each year?
I have spoken to many party members over these short but hectic two weeks and one of the messages that has resonated across the country is the need for the much missed National Council. At our first conference I will propose that we agree the frequency and remit of National Council and any other democratic gathering like Regional Steering Groups, Affiliate conferences and Regional Assemblies to give maximum opportunity of membership to actively engage in our party.
3.6 What reforms will you make to election strategy to ensure that we continue to win elections under your leadership?
Our party had enjoyed enormous electoral success for almost 20 years but we must always seek to improve and never take the
electorate for granted as Labour did. Our members are our lifeblood and we must given them, the tools, training and knowledge
sharing that they need to succeed both locally, regionally and nationally. My Activist Academy will build on SNP College and I
will seek new ideas from members on what works and what needs work.
3.7 Will you seek to ensure that complaints regarding the NEC’s recently adopted stances on transphobia and islamophobia are actioned accordingly
As leader I will ensure that abuse in any form is not accepted in the culture of our great party. Adopted stances will be reviewed for both legal compliance and to make sure that they achieve the objective we set out, to protect all of our members from abuse.
3.8 What will you do to reform vetting of both parliamentary and council candidates so that we maintain high standards for elected office? Do you agree that elected members should continue to be vetted in line with new candidates?
Vetting is critical to ensure we have candidates at all levels who uphold our parties values and are set up for electoral success. SNP Activist Academy will support members through the process of vetting and will include, media, campaign, policy, election and council or parliamentary training with ongoing support/mentoring.