Forget oil, whisky and Irn-Bru, Scotland’s most precious liquid resource is the blood coursing through each of our veins. Blood donation should be a semi-regular event for almost all of us – but only 4 per cent of people in Scotland actually donate.
The blood transfusion service is also unable to maximise the number of volunteers coming forward, as the rules state that gay men are barred from donating if they’ve had sex in the last 12 months.
In 2016, gay men who are husbands and fathers are deemed to be too “high risk” to make a donation. It is ridiculous to suggest that the blood of gay men in monogamous, long-term relationships carries a greater risk of serious infection than straight men who have had many sexual partners, safe and unsafe.
Safety of the blood supply must always come first, but we also need to recognise the message policies like these send. To ban gay men regardless of whether they engage in safe sex or unsafe sex sends a message that there’s no such thing as safe sex when it’s between two men.
A blanket ban on gay men donating prevents thousands of people from coming forward and helping to save the lives of others.
There is a danger that people take it upon themselves to “self evaluate” their own risk and simply lie when volunteering to give blood. A lack of honesty through the process is a far greater risk to the safety of the blood supply than allowing those with safe lifestyles to do their civic duty and help save lives.
Countries including Spain and Portugal have already changed their laws. Luckily, Scotland is changing too. The issue will be debated at the SNP conference this week and Rona MacKay MSP has put forward a motion in the Scottish Parliament calling for a change in the law.
So tell your MSP there’s no room for blanket discrimination in Scotland, or for policies that reduce the supply of this precious commodity.
• Adam McVey is an SNP councillor for Leith