by Matt Farnham
Scotland seems to be taking big steps towards inclusivity, but just how far has the nation come?
It’s Scotland. It’s 1999. The passing of the political torch is bringing in sweeping change and finally giving Scottish people control over how their country is run. Despite the speed of these changes, few people could have foreseen that by 2017 Scotland would be considered a world leader in equality.
There has been a massive shift in attitudes in recent years. In 2015 Scotland was named the “best nation in Europe for protecting LGBTQ+ rights” by an international human rights association. There has been a notable reduction in people believing samesex relationships are wrong. Since 1990 the number has reduced from 48% to just 18% of Scots. And in the last 17 years, Scotland has been lauded as having some of the world’s strongest anti-discrimination laws. At the forefront of these changes is Holyrood itself; now described as “the gayest Parliament in the world” with four of the main parties led by LGBTQ+ community members. A further six members of the Scottish Parliament are members of the LGBTQ+ community and this, as a percentage, is higher than any other national government.
But discrimination is far from over. As Kezia Dugdale, leader of the Scottish Labour Party, recognised recently, “It’s very easy when you live in the east end of Edinburgh, but I’m not sure this translates to the rest of Scotland.”
Last year, for example, saw an increase in hate crimes directed at transgender people, with 20% more instances reported. Recent indications from Stonewall Scotland suggest that this may be because transgender people now feel more supported when they do come forward to report these crimes.
The next step in the journey for true equality may well be Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP’s pledge to reform the gender recognition laws. The aim is to make changes that will allow a far less intrusive procedure for those wishing to alter their gender by law.
The proposed changes would give people more control; allowing under 16s to change their gender with parental support and meaning that the law would recognise those who identify as non-binary.
These new reforms could also result in employees, employers and children in schools being offerred increased awareness training to reduce bullying. Meanwhile, a new unit is being trained by Police Scotland to specialise in the investigation of hate crimes.
For a nation that only legalised same-sex relations in 1980, Scotland is an example of how quickly things can change for the better.
Now, with our generation next up as leaders, we can continue to ensure Scotland stays at the forefront of global issues.