Whilst bigotry exists in every country, Scotland in recent years, while by no means immune from hate, has been a shining example of LGBTQ tolerance and acceptance.
The Scottish National Party (SNP) administration in the devolved Scottish Parliament introduced the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act in 2014, the most comprehensive overhaul ever of marriage legislation in Scotland, which ensured equal marriage for people of all sexual orientations and genders. When the Bill was going through parliament, it had cross-party support, and when it went to the public consultation period (mandatory as the people are sovereign in Scotland), the response from the Scottish people was overwhelmingly in favour.
Likewise, the SNP administration is currently pressing ahead with transgender legislation reform to bring it into line with international best practice.
The leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Ruth Davidson, is openly lesbian. The co-convenor of the Scottish Green Party, Patrick Harvie, is openly gay. Scottish Labour’s former leader, Kezia Dugdale, is openly gay. SNP leader and First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, although cishet herself, won Politician of the Year in the 2016 Scottish LGBTI Awards.
So, amidst all of this pride Scotland can rightfully take in LGBTQ issues, who did new Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard appoint as his Spokeswoman for the Eradication of Poverty and Inequality? Someone who takes a firm stance against LGBTQ equality, while putting her god and religious faith above the sovereign wishes of the Scottish people, that’s who.
Enter Elaine Smith, list Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) for Central Scotland, who was one of the most vocal opponents to equal marriage in the Scottish Parliament, likening it to polygamy and claiming it would lead to unforeseen circumstances.
Speaking in 2013, Ms Smith stated “Whilst the government has said that it has no intention of allowing polygamous marriages as part of this legislation which changes the essential nature of marriage, it has not explained in any detail and with research analysis its reasons for taking that position. Further, if the government is sincere about its support for ‘equal love’ then it appears to have a contradiction on its hands.”
In her opposition to the Marriage and Civil Partnership Bill, Ms Smith also wrote “It is not, in my view, the Government’s job to interfere in the operation of churches, which is what this proposal seems to do.
“The potential consequences, of course, would not stop with the ceremony.
“The consequences of the legislation will be far reaching and would not just affect religious celebrants but could impact on people right across the country, particularly those with personal religious views. Teachers, local council workers and parents could all fall into categories potentially affected.”
Read that again carefully, dears; “It is not, in my view, the Government’s job to interfere in the operation of churches, which is what this proposal seems to do.”
“The consequences of the legislation will be far reaching and would not just affect religious celebrants”
Ms Smith, who also wrote, “if Christianity is no longer the framework for society consideration must then be given to what is replacing it”, seems to think that the Christian faith somehow has the monopoly on marriage. If that is the case, will she be the first to tell those in Scotland married under other faiths, and those atheists married under no religious faith, that they are not married in her eyes, or those of her faith? Perhaps Ms Smith would do well to reflect that in the Bible there is no definition of marriage as one man / one woman (there is in fact no definition of marriage in the Bible), and that the most common form of marriage found in the Bible is, ermm, polygamy.
And the part on celebrants is not lost on me either. The Marriage and Civil Partnership Act made provisions for the first time for non-religious celebrants being able to carry out marriages, without first seeking permission to do so.
This is a woman fit to speak on equality? Who looks to her religious faith first, and says “My bat, my ball”? I don’t think so somehow.
When confronted with Ms Smith’s past record, new Scottish Labour leader appeared to have been caught off-guard and waffled his way through an interview on BBC Good Morning Scotland (aired 9 January 2018). Leonard responded, “Well, Elaine’s position on that (equal marriage) is not one I support.” Pressed on the matter, the Scottish Labour leader responded, “it’s not in keeping… well… look, we’ve got a rising level of child poverty in this country, more people in work are living in poverty. We’ve got a huge rise in inequality, the top 1% richest people in Scotland earn more than the bottom 50% put together.”
Asked again on Elaine Smith’s stance on equal marriage, Mr Leonard waffled on, “There are huge challenges that we face, and I think Elaine Smith is well equipped to lead the Labour Party’s campaigns against that growing inequality and against that rise in poverty. That’s why I appointed her to that position.”
Utterly pathetic, and a clear indication that the leader of the Labour Party (North British Branch) should have done some serious homework before making the most unsuitable appointment possible.
But it does not stop there. Ms Smith is also opposed to LGBT-inclusive sex education in Scotland’s schools, and thinks that teachers should have the right to opt out of teaching it.
She stated, “On the specific issue of teachers, there are particular concerns. The Government’s proposal indicates that they would not expect a local authority to take ‘immediate’ disciplinary action against a teacher who expresses concerns about the use of certain educational materials.
“There is also the issue of parents and what control they have over the information their child receives. I have already been approached by parents with children at nondenominational schools who are concerned about sex education in primary schools.
“They are aware that they can seek to withdraw their child but are concerned that in doing so their child will then suffer from bullying and be set apart from their peers.
The government has indicated that it does not consider it appropriate to say that issues relating to same sex marriage, same sex relationships and homosexuality should never be raised in primary schools and neither can parents opt their children out of such discussions.”
Well, that latter part is utter rubbish. Parents fully have the right to withdraw their children from sex education if they so wish. And where is this bullying Ms Smith speaks of? Can she give any data or figures, which back up the claim that children opted out of sex education, are bullied by their peers?
Or could it be that given the widescale acceptance and respect LGBTQ Scots appear to be enjoying, the only people who are attempting any bullying are ignorant homophobic and transphobic bigots, who attempt to hide behind their faith? Does that sound in any way familiar, Ms Smith?
For someone who is supposedly an ‘equality’ spokesperson, Ms Smith’s commitment to equality is derisory. Here is one more snippet from her opposition to equal marriage:
“I do not regard same sex marriage as a simple matter of equality particularly as we already have civil partnerships for same sex couples. Just because something is not identical does not make it unequal.”
Different – but not unequal? Now, where have we heard that before in a supposedly ‘leftist’ context?
When Labour in England as well as Scotland talk of “equality” they may mean income and education rather than minority rights. There is a worry that some working class people are socially conservative so would disapprove of LGBT. However such socially conservative people are probably Tories anyway.
I’m sorry, Clare, but I don’t buy that. Even if it were true, then how do Labour intend to end the poverty and financial inequality many LGBT people face due to discrimination? The two go hand-in-hand, that needs to be addressed, and I do not believe Elaine Smith is ill-qualified to do that, given her odious track record.
As I pointed out, the majority of the public in Scotland backed equal marriage, and it looks like they will equally back transgender legislation reform. So if Labour is playing a populist game to woo socially conservative working class people, then that is to no avail in any case.
And it is not the working class who worry me here, rather it is the middle class religious conservatives who are the loudest opponents of LGBT rights in Scotland. Look up Rev David A Robertson of the Free Kirk, and Richard Lucas of the Family Party, and their followers (Lucas is also a former UKIP candidate who turned against them after failing to get elected, and because they back openly-gay MEP David Coburn). Certainly, they may drag a few working class followers along, but these people tend to be the ones who also opposed the Named Persons Scheme, giving every child in Scotland an independent adult they can turn to, and would never vote Labour anyway.
I’m not trying to pour cold water on religion, but Elaine Smith is yet one more example of why we need wholly secular government, on both sides of the border.