Scottish Government to unveil ‘conversion therapy’ plans next week

5, January 2024

The Scottish Government has promised to unveil new policy proposals for legislation on ‘conversion therapy’ on Tuesday 9 January.

A consultation on the plans is expected to run for twelve weeks. Let Us Pray will be helping Scottish supporters to respond. Sign up to the campaign to receive updates.

MSP for the Scottish Green Party, Maggie Chapman, asked the Scottish Government “when it will publish its consultation on ending conversion practices”.

A response was given on 14 December 2023, by Minister for Equalities, Emma Roddick:

The Scottish Government is committed to introducing legislation on ending conversion practices in Scotland. In developing our proposals for legislative change we have carefully considered a wide range of evidence and expert advice. This includes the report of the Scottish Parliament’s Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee, and the report and recommendations of the independent Expert Advisory Group established by the Scottish Government.

The consultation setting out our proposals for legislative change will be published on 9 January 2024.

The Government’s website says: “This consultation will contain clear and detailed information on our proposals for legislation and will allow you to provide valuable feedback.”

A consultation had been expected as long as a year earlier, but multiple factors have caused delays. Changes in the SNP leadership and doubts over Holyrood’s legislative competence in this area are likely contributors.

Worryingly, Ms Roddick’s response highlights two reports which she says have fed into the Government’s plans. Proposals in both reports have been heavily criticised for their likely criminalisation of ordinary members of the public for mere disagreement with LGBT thinking.

The Report of the Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee was published in early 2022. The Committee held numerous evidence sessions on the possibility of ‘banning conversion therapy’.

Sincere concerns about the proposals had been raised by many groups, including Christians. The plans could place severe limitations on the ordinary work of churches – prayer, pastoral care and preaching. But the Committee took evidence almost exclusively from those who ignored these concerns.

The Christian Institute wrote to Holyrood’s Presiding Officer, questioning the apparent bias of the Committee’s scrutiny.

Writing last year, Let Us Pray noted that the Committee made no mention of the fact that key ‘witnesses’ invited to give oral evidence were active members of the Green Party.  Due to the Greens’ political agreement with the SNP, they could have a major say in the eventual drafting of the law.

The recommendations of the Government’s own Expert Advisory Group were perhaps even more worrying. Independent legal advice from one of Scotland’s most prominent lawyers outlined serious flaws.

Aidan O’Neill KC explained that the Group had not considered relevant law. As such, its recommendations duplicated and ignored existing legislation. He was clear that, should the Scottish Government persist with such plans, it would be acting outside its own powers. He also said the plans would contravene the European Convention on Human Rights on multiple grounds.

Will the Scottish Government have learned from previous errors? Or will it persist in pursuing a dangerous and illiberal law?

Do join Let Us Pray to be kept up-to-date. We will help you be an influence when it matters most.

See also: Over 500 church leaders sign letter to Scot Govt opposing conversion therapy plans

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