Neil Gray: Scottish Government committed to conversion therapy ban

Some have raised concerns about the conversion therapy plans and how they could impact parenting

The Scottish Government is committed to moving forward with plans to ban conversion therapy, the Health Secretary has said.

Neil Gray, who remained in the post when newly appointed First Minister John Swinney announced his cabinet on Wednesday, said that the government will reflect on responses to a consultation on the issue, but that it is an “important piece of legislation”.

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The consultation document outlined plans to ban the practice, which sees people attempt to change or suppress the gender identity or sexual orientation of another person. Some have raised concerns about the conversion therapy plans and how they could impact parenting and the pastoral care offered by religious leaders.

Health Secretary Neil GrayHealth Secretary Neil Gray
Health Secretary Neil Gray

But the Greens fear watering down of such policies, particularly following Kate Forbes’ appointment as deputy first minister.

Mr Gray was asked yesterday if the Scottish Government would go ahead with the new law banning conversion therapy.

He said: “The First Minister said, I think on Friday morning, that we are going to look at the consultation responses from the conversion therapy consultation and reflect upon them.

“But we are committed to continuing with that legislation because it’s an important piece of legislation.”

He was also asked whether the recommendations of the Cass Review would be implemented in Scotland.

The Cass Review examined gender care services in England and criticised the lack of evidence around the use of puberty blockers and other medical intervention.

Following the publication of the review by Dr Hilary Cass, two Scottish health boards – one of which covers the only gender clinic in the country for young people – decided to pause the prescription of puberty blockers to new patients.

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Mr Gray said: “We are now reflecting upon her recommendations. Our amendment suggested we would be responding before the summer recess and that’s something I’m committed to.”

He added: “The polarised political and public discourse has not helped in terms of taking forward a very sensitive area of public health and medicine and that’s why I want to make sure that in responding to the Cass review we do so in a measured evidence-based way recognising the challenges that there are for those young people that wish to seek those services but also for the medical professionals delivering those services and making sure that families are properly supported in what is very sensitive area of health policy.”

Mr Gray also said he is pleased with the way Mr Swinney has started his tenure as First Minister, looking to “reach out”, which he said has led to positivity within the party and around the country.

He said: “I think John Swinney’s leadership is an opportunity for us to refocus, for us to make sure that we’re focusing on the priorities of the people of Scotland and that’s what minority government also does by making sure that we are reaching out across the parliament and finding consensus.”

Mr Gray also said he hopes to lead a debate at Holyrood about the future of the NHS later this month.

Scottish Conservative health spokesman Dr Sandesh Gulhane MSP said: “The SNP must stop dithering and immediately implement the recommendations of the Cass review in full.

“Now that the extremist Greens are no longer in government, Neil Gray and John Swinney need to show some leadership and give clarity to vulnerable youngsters and their families over gender care.

“It’s time the SNP followed the science and expertise of the Cass report, rather than ignorant ideology.”



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