Former SNP councillor quits Alba Party amid ‘hideous’ claims against LGBT groups

A former SNP councillor who joined Alex Salmond’s new Alba has publicly quit and said he is “ashamed” to have been a member after the party defended a candidate who claimed Scottish LGBT groups are working to change laws around the age of consent.

It comes after Margaret Lynch, an Alba candidate for Central Scotland, told the party’s Women’s Conference on Saturday that Stonewall Scotland and LGBT Youth Scotland are lobbying to lower the age of consent to the age of 10.

Austin Sheridan, who previously served as an SNP councillor in Glasgow, called Ms Lynch’s comments “hideous”, adding there is “no way I can be part of a party that tolerates such views.”

In a statement on Facebook, Mr Sheridan, who previously left the SNP to back the Alliance for Independence, said he had originally joined Alba “for the right reasons”.

He wrote: “I can say hand on heart I supported Alba. “I am a proud member of the LGBTI community, I support the idea of a supermajority, but there is no way I can be part of a party that tolerates such views and does nothing to address them directly.

“I am so disappointed. I am ashamed to have been associated with them, which I did for the right reasons as many others in the Yes Movement did, thinking that they would be a progressive force for independence.

“I can only apologise for anyone who has judged me in that category.”

He added: “I will always support Trans rights, I will always support our LGBTI community which I am a proud part of.

On Monday, Nancy Kelley, CEO of Stonewall, and Colin Macfarlane, Director Stonewall Scotland and Northern Ireland, called on Ms Lynch to apologise.

“To think that a party would defend such a person with these hideous views is beyond me and not worth voting for.”

Referring to how he planned to vote, Mr Sheridan finished: “SNP 1, Green 2 for me.”

Ms Lynch’s controversial comments centre around a paragraph in the Feminist Declaration of the Women’s Rights Caucus (WRC), drafted in 2020.

The section, in full, states: “Eliminate all laws and policies that punish or criminalize same-sex intimacy, gender affirmation, abortion, HIV transmission non-disclosure and exposure, or that limit the exercise of bodily autonomy, including laws limiting legal capacity of adolescents, people with disabilities or other groups to provide consent to sex or sexual and reproductive health services or laws authorizing non-consensual abortion, sterilization, or contraceptive use.”

One of the dozens of signatories to the declaration was ILGA World - a group that counts Stonewall Scotland, LGBT Youth Scotland, Unite the Union, the Universities and College Union, and the LGBT arm of the Labour Party among its thousands of members.

Critics, including Ms Lynch, claim the term “adolescents” in the declaration refers to young people aged between 10 and 19 - defined as such by the World Health Organisation (WHO) - meaning that ILGA World and its supporters wish to lower the age of consent to 10.

But the declaration makes no reference to the WHO’s definition of adolescents, or define them as any specific age group, and does not explicitly propose the lowering of the age of consent.

ILGA World said it was “appalled that false stories are circulating attempting to imply that ILGA World is advocating to lower or eliminate the age of consent.”

In a strongly-worded statement, the organisation said: “ILGA World categorically, and in no uncertain terms, does not advocate to eliminate or lower the general age of consent, nor supports paedophilia in any way, shape or form - and never has.

“Our position on this is clear and a matter of public record. These spurious claims, as old as homophobia itself, are dangerous and irresponsible, and we urge those making or sharing them, to stop.

“ILGA World calls for the strengthening of the rights of children and young people, in accordance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and condemns all forms of abuse (including sexual abuse), coercion, and exploitation of children and young people.

“As regards our member organisations, we take strict measures to ensure that they abide by our values, and they are thoroughly screened during the application process.

It added: “Any complaints or information received about members advocating or promoting paedophilia, are dealt with, and if founded will result in their expulsion from ILGA World.”

On Monday, Nancy Kelley, CEO of Stonewall, and Colin Macfarlane, Director Stonewall Scotland and Northern Ireland, called on Ms Lynch to retract her comments and apologise.

In a joint statement they said: “We are appalled by the baseless and offensive accusations made by Alba parliamentary candidate Margaret Lynch on Saturday.

“What she said was not only untrue, but it was also a wilful, bad faith interpretation made for the sole purpose of trying to smear LGBT+ organisations.

“Her allegations have been refuted in the strongest terms by ILGA World.

“In making these accusations, she is repeating deeply harmful myths about LGBT+ people as paedophiles and sexual predators. It’s the oldest trick in the homophobic book of lies.”

They added that Ms Lynch’s comments put the charity’s staff and the wider LGBT community “in danger”and called on her to retract them and apologise.

Stonewall said it was “carefully considering” its next steps, and asked anyone with information to get in touch.

Responding to a request for comment, an Alba spokesperson defended Ms Lynch’s statement.

They said: “The organisations referenced have both signed up to this demand, and both have received substantial amounts of Government funding. These are reputable organisations that make a positive impact on the lives of many in Scotland.

"If the organisations do not support what they have signed up to it is for them to say or provide clarification, it is not for women that attended our women’s conference to defend concerns that women have raised based on fact.”

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