But why Scotland now ranked with rest of UK?
The latest rating from International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (IGLA) has shown that the UK, previously rated top in Europe for LGBT+ rights, has now dropped to second place, below Malta.
The Rainbow Europe Ranking, which rates 49 European countries on their level of LGBT+ rights, has found that the tiny Mediterranean island state of Malta now rates 89%, while the UK comes second with a rating of 85.55%. This has been down to several recent changes in Malta, which include being the first country to outlaw surgery on intersex children, introducing LGBT+ education and starting same-sex civil unions.
The IGLA recognise that Malta does not yet have equal marriage but make the point that the same pertains to Northern Ireland. While the UK province is notorious for sectarian bigotry and religious strife, opposition to LGBT+ rights is one issue which unites both sides of the Protestant / Roman Catholic divide.
It would be churlish of one not to congratulate Malta on this victory, and indeed, I previously published an article championing them on the very brave step of becoming the first country in the world to outlaw gender assignment surgery on intersex babies. That is undoubtably what swung it for them. That apart, for a country which has been the crossroads of religion for millennia, and which remains culturally strongly Christian, makes their stance all the more amazing.
I do however have a problem with the IGLA latest rating, and that is that all the constituent parts of the UK are now included together. When I previously reported on this (“Scotland best for LGBTI legal equality”, 11 May 2015), Scotland was leading the field of the Rainbow Index with a staggering 92%, compared to 86% for the rest of the UK.
By now counting the UK as a whole, we see that Scotland’s rating is being dragged down by the rest of the UK. Needless to say, Northern Ireland must be playing no small part in this. The religious attitudes in the province are an embarrassment to the whole of the UK. LGBT+ rights apart, there is also no abortion in NI, and a Marie Stopes clinic which opened in Belfast was forced to close within a few weeks, due to protests which often turned violent. And if you think you can escape those attitudes in the countryside, consider that the World Heritage site of the Giant’s Causeway, volcanic pillars pushed up be pressure millions of years ago, has an information display claiming it was formed by the Noachian flood, around 4000 years ago. Frankly, I’m all for a united Ireland – if only to offload a province full of embarrassing religious nutters on someone else.
Another factor however must be the piss poor Same Sex Marriages Act which was kicked through Westminster with indecent haste, and which like all kneejerk legislation, was ill thought-out, ill-planned, and has come in for considerable criticism since it’s implementation. The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act, by comparison took much longer to formulate, but with the result it not only allowed for same-sex marriage, but was the most comprehensive marriage legislation, for all sexualities and genders, ever to be passed into Scots Law.
There of course may be somewhere that the Scottish Government has shot itself in the foot, and that is on the recent introduction of their consultation of the future of civil partnership, which has come in for considerable criticism from the Scots LGBT+ charity, Equality Network. The Scottish Government is giving only two options, both of which would see the eventual removal of civil partnerships altogether in favour of marriage. There are some, myself included, who would argue that there are couples, of whatever gender and sexuality, who wish to be together, do not wish to marry, but wish their partnerships recognised in law, with all the benefits in law that brings. The Scottish Government is simply not giving the Scottish people the right to say they may actually want that.
These issues apart, however, one cannot help but wonder just how and why the IGLA decided to amalgamate the constituent parts of the UK into one, and I don’t think we have to look any further than the current UK government. Ever since the previous league table came out in May, UK Prime Minister David Cameron has been boasting that the UK is the best place for LGBT+ rights. Only two months ago, the Prime Minister stated “Together we should be proud to live in a country judged to be the best place in Europe if you are lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans.”
Cameron, as a typical Tory, barely recognises Scotland as a country with its own system of law (which has always been devolved, even under the auspices of the 1707 Treaty of Union). It is therefore entirely possible that he has put pressure on the IGLA not to count the UK as constituents, but as a whole. If so, that is odious, as it may well be his government dragging Scotland down with the rest of the UK.
When the Prime Minister won the General Election in May, he made Nicky Morgan MP his Minister for Equalities, despite the fact that she voted against same-sex marriage. Of course, since then Ms Morgan has claimed that it was wrong for her to do so and she has changed her mind. But then, any MP with a cabinet post in the offing can easily have their mind changed. Nicky Morgan’s appointment to that post alone may very well have skewed the Rainbow Table.
Whatever the truth, one cannot but help but feel disappointed in the IGLA for not counting Scotland as separate, when in fact, even within the UK, we have our own laws, our own marriage system, and our own LGBT+ rights. And while I know there are those who will disagree with me, for my part Scotland losing top place – which at formerly 92% is effectively what has happened – is just one more symptom of a much wider malaise; that being that as long as Scotland remains in the UK, we shall always suffer and be dragged down by Westminster as a result.
The full Rainbow Index table can be found here:
Link to my article when Scotland was leading the field: