Nicola Sturgeon unveils new gay rights package

Nicola Sturgeon has unveiled a radical package of measures aimed at tackling discrimination faced by Scotland's gay and transgender community as she called for a 'leap forward' in equality rights over the coming years.

Nicola Sturgeon is looking to tackle discrimination. Picture: Jane Barlow

New laws will be introduced to recognise for the first time that some Scots have a “non-binary” gender – neither male nor female. The reforms could also mean children are allowed to change sex with their parents’ permission, campaigners say.

Senior teachers in Scotland are also to receive training on tackling homophobic bullying and equality issues under measures set out by the First Minister last night. She was speaking at a hustings event with the other party leaders organised by LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex) leaders in Edinburgh.

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Refreshed classroom strategies will also be unveiled to teach pupils about healthy relationships in Scotland.

The move was welcomed by equality groups last night who said it addressed “key concerns” of minorities.

But one church leader voiced concerns that Ms Sturgeon was pursuing a “dangerous ideology” which could be harmful to many children.

Scotland introduced gay marriage two years ago and Ms Sturgeon insisted there was a “real momentum” for change in the next Parliament.

“There is still much that we need to do,” she said. “In particular I want to see a renewed focus on areas such as education – both for young people themselves, and those responsible for their emotional and educational wellbeing. Tolerance, respect, inclusion – these are attitudes and principles we want to encourage and foster in modern, fairer Scotland.”

The review of gender recognition law could also allow young people to legally change their gender, with their parents’ support if they are under 16.

Other measures set out by Ms Sturgeon last night include an expectation that all new, guidance and promoted teachers should undertake training on equality to tackle prejudice-based bullying. There will also be an emphasis in schools on teaching tolerance and equality to prevent prejudice and refreshed “age appropriate” strategies.

Tim Hopkins, director of the Equality Network, said, “We welcome these commitments from the SNP, which address some key concerns of LGBTI people, and we hope that the other parties will make strong pledges on LGBTI equality.”

James Morton, manager of the Scottish Transgender Alliance, said: “We hope that the other parties will match this commitment and we look forward to working on this with whoever forms the next Scottish Government.”

But the Moderator of the Free Church of Scotland, Rev David Robertson, voiced concerns over the measures.

“It appears that Nicola Sturgeon has bought into the LGBTI agenda wholesale,” he said.

“We believe that what is proposed could actually be harmful to many children, will not promote children’s health and wellbeing and will not produce the utopia envisaged.”

He added: “The SNP seem to be working on the unproven and somewhat bizarre notion that children get to choose their own gender and sexuality.”