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 the first response with you.
Section 1: Priorities as FM
1.1 Will you defend the Gender Recognition Reform Bill against the section 35 order?
Yes. Scotland is doing nothing new in bringing in the GRR Bill. Since our legislation passed, two more countries have passed similar legislation that humanises the process. We are just catching up with other countries in this respect. There is nothing controversial in this legislation.
I voted for the GRR Bill and, as First Minister, I will challenge the UK Government’s Section 35 Order. As a devolved issue, the Scottish Parliament has the right to decide, and the UK Government has no right to exert its authority over our pursuit of human rights. Their challenge of the GRR Bill is not only an affront to trans rights, but also an affront to Scottish democracy. I am unapologetic and unequivocal on that issue.
1.2 Do you support equal marriage and would you defend this policy from any challenges?
I want members and voters to know that I value and celebrate the relationships and marriages of my LGBTQ friends, just the same as myself and my hetrosexual friends. I believe that equal marriage is a fundamental right and core to the equality of our society. If challenged, I will absolutely defend the right to equal marriage. I will always support and advance rights that champion equality across the board.
1.3 Are you committed to ensuring that access to early medical abortion at home is maintained?
Yes. I am absolutely committed to ensuring safety and dignity in accessing abortion services. As First Minister I will commit to ensure safe and secure access to abortions, and I have already committed to more clinical training to ensure this. Abortion services should not be a postcode lottery, and I will look to improve services to prevent the need to travel inside of Scotland, and to England.
I have committed to bring forward legislation that will decriminalise abortion by the end of this parliament. As First Minister I will bring this forward as a matter of priority.
1.4 Are you committed to ensuring that abortion care is available up to 24 weeks uniformly across Scotland
Yes. I want all abortion care to be dignified. I will work hard to ensure there is no postcode lottery to abortion services and look to provide the best care for all across Scotland, as close to home as possible.
1.5 Are you committed to seeing the Hate Crime Bill implemented in full as soon as possible?
Yes. I will absolutely take this forward. I took this legislation forward as Justice Secretary because I wanted a more socially just and inclusive Scotland. This was my driver then and will be my driver as First Minister. I will take this legislation forward, and it will be treated as a priority.
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?
First of all, I will stand up to the UK Government in defence of the Scottish Parliament’s GRR Bill and in defence of trans rights.
I will lead by example, and proudly commit to advancing equality for all and social justice for our modern independent Scotland. We can never take equality for granted, or expect progress to be linear and inevitable. It is clear from the debate around the GRR Bill that we still have a long way to go as a society in terms of attitudes towards our LGBTQ+ community.
As Scotland’s First Minister, I will serve all equally and work hard to build an LGBTQ+ inclusive society, where everyone is valued and celebrated for who they are, and no one has to live in fear of prejudice.
1.7 Are you committed to seeing through the reforms in the NHS Gender Identity Services: Strategic Action Framework 2022-2024?
I will follow through the NHS gender identity services: strategic action framework 2022 – 2024 and commit to the £9 million allocated to improve health care for trans people.
1.8 What additional measures will you make to improve access to trans health care and reduce wait times?
I am aware that issues of health are of great concern for many in the LGBTQ+ community and especially our trans community. I would like to reassure you that, as First Minister, I would continue the commitment to transform a healthcare service for trans people that is respectful, non-discriminatory and inclusive. It must also be collaborative.
As Cabinet Secretary for Health, I am overseeing the Healthcare Improvement Scotland Consultation to build national standards for gender identity healthcare services. Health care for our trans community must improve, and, as First Minister, I would ensure this consultation continues with a view to implementing the recommendations.
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
As First Minister, the government I lead will take action to deliver the recommendations, in full, of the non-binary working group and will ensure that the recognition of non-binary identities is progressed within this parliamentary term.
1.10 Are you committed to improving funding and services for LGBTQ+ people who face domestic violence?
Research has shown that LGBTQ+ young people experience higher rates of abuse in their relationship and families than non-LGBTQ+ people, but can struggle to access information or support that is relevant or appropriate.
As First Minister, the government I lead will be resolute in its commitment to the improvement of funding and services for LGBTQ+ people who face domestic violence. We will listen to those voices often left unheard, to ensure that they can access the information and services they require.
In order to do this, we shall seek to better understand – through consultation – the impact that domestic violence has upon the health and well-being of LGBTQ+ people from our stakeholders and from those with the lived experience of domestic violence.
The process of consultation allows government to better understand LGBTQ+ young people’s experiences in relationships, particularly experiences of abuse or unhealthy behaviours in interpersonal relationships, or families. This process in turn will us to better determine and implement policy.
1.11 Will you convene a working group for intersex Scots to inform future policy?
As discussed below, I would want to set up a consultation process looking at pathways of care and support for intersex children, adults and families and this must include input from those with experience. This must include those with lived experience.
1.12 Will you commit to implementing a National HIV Testing Week as supported by the Terrence Higgins Trust?
As First Minister, in line with the ambitions of our national framework on eradication of HIV by 2030, I will work with stakeholders to encourage the maximisation of HIV testing.
The National HIV Testing Week led by Terrence Higgins Trust and the volunteer led #KnowYourRisk campaign by the Scottish Drug Forum (SDF) for Testing Week Scotland are excellent examples of what is possible. As First Minister, I will explore what more the Scottish Government can do to support this.
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?
We have made huge strides in detecting and treating HIV. Thanks to our sexual and reproductive health services, services for intravenous substance users, advances in medicine and access to HIV specialist treatment and care, people with HIV are now able to live long, happy and healthy lives.
As First Minister, the government I lead will be steadfast in its commitment to eliminating HIV transmission by 2030. I am committed to realising that ambition.
1.14 Will you commit to tackling the disproportionate rate of homelessness among LGBTQ+ people, especially young people, both by funding services and research?
As First Minister, I and the government I will lead are committed to tackling the disproportionate rate of homelessness among LGBTQ+ people, especially in regards to young people. In order to tackle the scourge of homelessness – and in this instance the homelessness of our young people and the LGBTQ+ community – we will seek to fund services in conjunction with our partners in the Scottish Green Party, stakeholders and those with the lived experience of homelessness. We will also collate the latest data on homelessness from research bodies and third sector organisations to inform the implementation of policy.
Housing is a fundamental human right. It underpins the health, wellbeing, happiness and life-chances of people in our communities.
If I am First Minister, my government will continue to work to make the right to a suitable, affordable, warm and safe home a reality. We will continue to take action to improve the affordability and quality of rented homes, and to improve the fairness of the terms on which they are rented.
We reaffirm our pledge to take action to end homelessness, for the dignity, fairness and respect of all our citizens including our young people and the LGBTQ+ community. We will work together on our shared aim for everyone to have a safe, high-quality home that is affordable and meets their needs in the place they want to be.
A new housing standard will underpin these ambitions, ensuring that all homes, irrespective of tenure, type or location should, over time, meet this standard.
Alongside our partners in government as per the Co-Operation Agreement (Working Together to Build a Greener, Fairer, Independent Scotland, 2021) we have laid the groundwork for the implementation of:
- A new housing regulator for the private rented sector to improve standards and enforce tenants’ rights.
- Enhance tenants’ rights, including through greater restrictions on evictions over winter, providing additional security for tenants.
- Introduce new rights for tenants, for example giving tenants greater flexibility to decorate their home and to keep pets.
- Put in place additional penalties and compensation for illegal evictions.
We will also implement an effective national system of rent controls, with an appropriate mechanism to allow local authorities to introduce local measures. We will consult on the options, deliver legislation and implement rent controls by the end of 2025.
We have led the way on tackling homelessness by introducing measures such as:
- Mitigating the Tory bedroom tax. We have invested over £60 million to fully mitigate the callous ‘bedroom tax’, protecting over 70,000 Scottish households from the charge.
- Delivered over 115,500. Since 2007, we’ve delivered homes in every corner of Scotland – with around 70% for social rent.
- Over 16,400 new council homes. We’re building new council homes at a significantly higher rate than in England, and delivered more council homes than the previous Labour government in Scotland.
- Ended ‘Right to Buy’. We’ve ended Right to Buy to prevent the sale of 15,000 council homes over a 10-year period, and protect the existing stock of social rented homes in Scotland.
Our ambitions and commitment to tackle the scourge of homelessness are unwavering and as First Minister, the government that I will lead will work day in, day out to ensure that the right to a suitable, affordable, warm and safe home becomes a reality for all.
1.15 Will you continue to support and further the Scottish Government’s commitment to LGBTQ+ inclusive education?
I believe children should grow up embracing inclusion, and increasing tolerance, equality, and fairness more generally across all parts of our society. Children should be able to explore their identity in a safe environment and in an inclusive education system that allows them space to become confident young adults.
I am proud of the Scottish Government’s record on this: implementing a world first LGBTQ+ inclusive education into the school system. Our commitment to that is unwavering and, as First Minister, I will continue to advance this, working with Human Rights and LGBTQ+ rights groups and progress all our rights within society. I will honour our commitment to embed LGBTQ+ inclusive education across schools.
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?
I am aware the current arrangement is complex, legalistic and favours the biological parents. I think the process should allow for a much more nuanced and mixed family structure.
2.2 Will you present a bill to parliament comprehensively banning conversion therapy in line with the recommendations of the Expert Advisory Group?
Yes. I stand by the expert Advisory Panel’s recommendations. Given that report is less than six months old I would see no need to change its recommendations. I will also honour our manifesto commitment to do this: a commitment that saw us form government. I would not see any reason, then, not to push this legislation forward. Please let me be clear. There is no place for conversion practices in a modern Scotland.
2.3 Are you committed to passing legislation to implement buffer zones around healthcare facilities?
Yes. I will not compromise in my commitment to this.
I have also committed to bring forward legislation that will decriminalise abortion by the end of this parliament. As First Minister I will bring this forward as a matter of priority.
As First Minister I will commit to ensure safe and secure access to abortion, and I have already committed to more clinical training to ensure this. Abortion services should not be a postcode lottery, and I will look to improve services to ensure they can be accessed as close to home as possible.
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)?
I would like to reassure our intersex Scots and Out for Indy that I am very much aware of the issues and complexities that can come with being intersex in today’s society.
I am aware of the history of intersex children having surgery for genital ‘sexing’ and the complicated and traumatic impact this has had for generations. I am also aware countries across Europe are now embedding best practice for our intersex community and bans on cosmetic surgical ‘corrections’ have been in place for young children. Since its first ban in 2015, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Spain and Portugal have followed suit with other countries such as France now considering this.
If elected as First Minister I would want to initiate a consultation on this issue, including, but not restricted to, surgery. Assessing pathways of care and support for parents, children and adults in this area would also form part of this consultation, as well as current practice. The consultation must include medical infrastructure as part of the process, but must also include wide social and cultural factors where we can increase support and confidence across the board; accepting our bodies for what they are. This would involve looking at how we shift from the medical model that seems to prevail in this area, into a social model of support. The consultation must include those with lived experience at its heart, as well as other expert advice and set within a framework of international best practice.
2.5 Will you ensure that LGBTQ+ rights are fully incorporated into the new Human Rights Bill for Scotland?
As First Minister, I will do everything in my power to protect and advance the rights of people in Scotland – and make the case for the full powers of independence which will allow us to go even further, keeping our human rights out of the hands of Westminster for good.
I will start by confirming that the government will bring forward the Human Rights Bill and will incorporate key UN treaties into Scots Law as far as the devolution settlement allows. This will absolutely include LGBTQ+ rights.
Section 3: Priorities as Party Leader
3.1 Will you march with us at Pride?
Yes. Can I bring my family?
3.2 Are you committed to improving and modernising the party’s code of conduct and constitution to include LGBT discrimination?
You will be aware that Code of Conduct changes would be done through the NEC. As part of this, I would support the Equalities Convenor and the National Secretary in pushing this forward.
3.3 Are you committed to reforming how affiliate organisations are funded within the party?
As you will be aware, I am keen to make changes within the party to ensure more efficient campaigning strategies and embedding equalities within the party. I am committed to discuss all issues that include more member interaction and input. This would include looking at how affiliate groups contribute to the wider structure. Funding would be part of that.
3.4 Are you committed to improving transparency, safeguarding, and welfare for HQ staff and operations?
I think this would be a given. I have spoken publicly on the need to transform HQ, and I think these issues would need to be part of this, yes.
3.5 Are you committed to ensuring that at least one national council is held each year?
I like the idea of National Councils, and as Party leader I have committed to a member-led approach. We do need forums for national and regional discussion, and I would like to build in more democratic spaces for discussion within the party’s policy-making infrastructure.
3.6 What reforms will you make to election strategy to ensure that we continue to win elections under your leadership?
If I am elected SNP Leader, the fresh campaign for independence starts on day one and I’ll be working alongside SNP members and independence supporters across the movement to drive support for independence to new heights.
That campaign is founded on a compelling case for independence, so I’ll be directing SNP Headquarters to immediately grow the party’s Independence Unit. Their focus will be on pulling together the excellent resources that already exist and undertaking fresh work to build the strongest possible case for independence, in partnership across the independence movement.
Then we need to get this case for independence to where it will make a difference – the hands of our activists. We need campaign materials that offer a vision of how independence can transform Scotland, but also that answer the tough questions we all get on the doorsteps.
The case for independence is a simple one: the best people to make decisions about Scotland are the people who live here. Independence therefore empowers us to build the kind of society we want to live in. It’s our job to inspire people in Scotland with that vision of what Scotland can be, and to reassure them that independence is worth it.
We will make it happen, together. When it’s clear that independence is the democratic will of the people of Scotland, it will not be denied. We need to shift our focus from the ‘how’ to the ‘why’ of independence if we want to build support and speed up the timescale of delivery.
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 of the party I would seek to lead a culture that practices the social justice that we seek. You will be aware that there are complaints procedures and codes of conduct that I could not interfere with as party leader. I would, however, ensure that our National Secretary has what they need to deal with these issues.
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?
I would be open to changes that improve our system, and I’m aware that the party’s Governance Review group has previously submitted proposals to do just that. This work was based on comprehensive consultation across the party, so I would want that to be the foundation of discussions about the improvements that we need.
Representing the SNP as a councillor, MSP or MP is an immense privilege and responsibility and nobody should have a ‘free pass’ in that regard. We must each demonstrate for each election that we have the skills to do the job on behalf of the party and the people we serve.
There needs to be equity in that process for everyone taking part. There is the issue of vetting, which relates to suitability for the role but also of skills assessment. I think we need to be focused on ensuring that the process reflects the standards and skills we all expect of our elected representatives.