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Leadership Questionnaire Responses – Kate Forbes

On March 1st, we sent out a detailed questionnaire to all three leadership candidates asking them questions derived from our membership. While Kate did not respond to the questionnaire, she sent us the following email addressing some of our policy concerns.

Dear Executive Committee,

Thank you for your recent correspondence, I’m sorry I haven’t been able to fully answer all of your questions in the timescale, but I hope the below response is still useful.

With regard to the Section 35 order, I fully recognise and agree that the UK Government should not overturn Scottish legislation. As such, I commit to challenging the Section 35 in court if the legal advice is that we are likely to be successful.

I have made a solemn and honest pledge when it comes to upholding the rights of every person in Scotland and I will defend to the hilt the rights of everybody in Scotland, particularly minorities, to live and to love without fear or harassment in a pluralistic and tolerant society.

Turning to your points on abortion, during the first 24 weeks of pregnancy it is a legal right in Scotland, and I would uphold that right. As you may be aware, the Scottish Government has commissioned an independent evaluation to assess the current approach to early medical abortion at home. The Scottish Government’s existing approach is that a decision as to the long-term future of early medical abortion in Scotland will be made in line with the evidence provided by this evaluation, and if elected First Minister, I would continue with this approach.

Women should be able to access all healthcare, including reproductive healthcare, free from harassment and harm, as should the staff and practitioners delivering that care. If I am elected First Minister, I will work with Gillian Mackay and ensure that my government supports her to take forward a bill that meets this aim and is consistent with the Scottish Government’s obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights.

In line with the SNP manifesto and the Programme for Government, I am also committed to banning conversion therapy. If elected First Minister, I am committed to introducing robust and targeted legislation that tackles coercion – an abhorrent practice that has no place in a tolerant and pluralistic Scotland – in a robust and targeted way, and is consistent with existing protections around freedom of expression, freedom of speech and freedom of practice.

Indeed, prejudice or intolerance of any kind have no place in Scotland. I voted for the Hate Crime Bill and am committed to seeing it implemented in Scotland as soon as is practically possible.

If elected First Minister, I am also committed to continuing working in partnership with NHS Scotland to improve the delivery and access to services across Scotland. This includes the commitment to increasing investment in mental health by at least 25 per cent, and ensuring that by the end of the parliament, 10 per cent of the frontline NHS budget will be invested in mental health services. I am also keen to pursue conversations with Scottish universities and medical schools to discuss how we might be able to increase the number of places for Scottish students to ensure a sustainable workforce, and the ability to improve waiting times across all services.

The Scottish Government has committed to end HIV transmission as a public health issue within Scotland by 2030 and I stand by that commitment.

You raise some key points around the code of conduct and party procedure. As First Minister, I would be committed to looking at the code of conduct to see in what areas it might be improved upon and to ensure that all members of minority groups, including LGBTI members, can feel welcome and at home in our party.

Additionally, I would be keen to explore all ways in which member engagement can be improved. Ultimately, election strategy and policy should be both informed and built by members. We have a party that is rich in diversity and talent, and our approach should not solely be led and devised by the government or SNP leaders.

As First Minister, I would support the NEC to investigate complaints in a timely and professional manner, in line with standard procedure.

Lastly, we have a wealth of expertise and experience within the party, and I am grateful to those who volunteer their time to assist with vetting. There are, however, improvements that can be made around the administration of the vetting process. Namely, ensuring that volunteers and prospective candidates have a clear understanding of when and where they will be required to attend vetting, the appeals process, and when they can expect to hear the outcome of their selection.

I would support the NEC in ensuring that the vetting process for upcoming elections is planned in advance and carried out in a timely and professional manner.

Thanks again for taking the time to contact me.

Yours sincerely,