‘Conversion therapy’ and a new top team in Holyrood

10, May 2024

Does a new First Minister in Scotland signal an end to ‘conversion therapy’ plans? Not so fast, says Let Us Pray’s Joanna Cook.

A new First Minister for Scotland was appointed earlier this week. What effect does that have on the plans for a ‘conversion therapy’ law?

The leader of the SNP, John Swinney MSP, was elected to the role just a week after his predecessor Humza Yousaf announced his resignation.

The circumstances are clear enough. Mr Yousaf stood up to the Scottish Greens and pulled the plug on of their controversial partnership. He expected to lose on a motion of no-confidence and had run out of options.

The Scottish Greens have been ardent advocates of a ‘conversion therapy’ law since it was first mooted several years ago. The ‘End Conversion Therapy Scotland’ group – the lead campaigners on the issue – has had several Green Party councillors at its helm.

One of these is Blair Anderson, who previously claimed that telling parents about their own child ‘transitioning’ gender at school amounted to “state-sanctioned conversion therapy”.

So, you might assume, the Greens having less influence in Holyrood is a good thing. The radical plans for a ‘conversion therapy’ law that would see “parents who refuse children gender change face seven years in jail in Scotland” are surely now off the table?

And there are surely promising signs in the new Scottish Cabinet too. Minister for Equalities Emma Roddick has resigned from her role. The youngest government minister Scotland had ever had was previously very clear that her ‘conversion therapy’ proposals were needed to send “a strong message”. She repeatedly stood up for her legislative proposals, despite their disastrous reception with the press and public.

Scotland’s new Deputy First Minister is also surely a step in the right direction. Kate Forbes, who is known for her Christian faith, has expressed “significant concerns” over the failed Gender Recognition Reform Bill. When she explained her views on a ‘conversion therapy’ law last year, she thankfully didn’t capitulate to the most draconian demands from within her own party.

So, is the new Cabinet a recipe for success? Will the ‘conversion therapy’ law be dropped? We mustn’t get ahead of ourselves.

John Swinney has long been regarded as one of the most socially ‘progressive’ members of the SNP. He is an advocate for gender reform, saying last year that he had “no regrets” about the disastrous policy. Conflicting press reports say he remains committed to the Bill, but it looks like he will not attempt to resurrect it.

The SNP’s LGBT+ wing, ‘Out For Independence’, has expressed concern about Kate Forbes’ appointment, calling for “urgent clarification” that the ‘conversion therapy’ policy won’t be dropped.

The new First Minister has agreed to meet with them, describing himself “as someone who voted for equal marriage in the Scottish Parliament” and “who was the Education Secretary that introduced the LGBT inclusive education”. He added that he would “enhance those rights”.

On ‘conversion therapy’ he said: “The Government is going through the proper process on conversion therapy, the Government is committed to a ban on conversion therapy; we’re looking at the consultation responses which came in and concluded in early April, and obviously we’ll take the decisions in the due course about that legislation.”

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