Christian group's lawyer warns conversion therapy laws may breach Holyrood's legislative competence

Leading KC describes planned legislation as ‘wholly undefined’

One of Scotland’s leading lawyers has described planned laws to ban conversion therapy for sexuality or gender in Scotland as “jellyfish legislation” that is “impossible to grasp,” and suggested it may be beyond Holyrood’s legislative competence.

Aidan O’Neill KC, who has been instructed to provide advice by the Christian Institute, said the limits of the proposed legislation were “wholly undefined.” The Christian group has vowed to take legal action if the “draconian” legislation is implemented, and has expressed concern that parents could face prison sentences for stopping their children changing gender.

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Last month, the Scottish Government launched a public consultation on the issue of ending conversion practices, which aim to change or suppress a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Equalities minister Emma Roddick warned that such “damaging and destructive acts” violated the human rights of those who undergo them, and had “absolutely no place in Scotland.”

The Scottish Government said it wants to "lead the way" on a ban after the UK government left it out of the King's Speech in November, five years after first promising it. But in a 46 page opinion prepared for the Christian Institute, Mr O’Neill offered a scathing analysis.

“If passed this legislation would criminalise parents who sought to exercise any form of parental authority or guidance in relation to their children as regards issues around sexuality and gender which conflicted with the official position now adopted by the state,” he wrote.

“Separately if these proposals were passed into law, then the law would have a chilling effect on the ability and willingness of religious bodies - and separately, among others, gender critical feminist activist individuals or groups - to teach and preach and lobby and proselytise, on any matters relating to sexuality and/or gender, which conflicted with any of the official positions now adopted by the state.”

Simon Calvert, deputy director of the Christian Institute, said: “This is another example of the Scottish Government asking Holyrood to exceed its powers and impose draconian legislation on the people. If this deeply flawed law is passed it will be challenged all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary.”



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