Yes vote will safeguard gay rights, says Hollywood star

Hollywood star Alan Cumming has said independence will give gay Scots the “rights and respect” they deserve.

Alan Cumming: Independence enshrines rights in constitution. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Alan Cumming: Independence enshrines rights in constitution. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Pro-independence campaigners yesterday warned that progress in terms of equality, such as gay rights, could be thrown into jeopardy by a No vote under the Westminster 

But the claim has been rejected by the No camp which says the UK is the most gay-friendly country to live in Europe, according to international campaign groups.

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The pro-independence Yes LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) group yesterday launched its “rainbow paper” – following on from the SNP’s white paper – outlining how they believe independence will deliver greater equality in Scotland.

Aberfeldy-born X-men star Cumming, who is an LGBT activist, said: “I’m proud that an independent Scotland will give its LGBT citizens the rights and respect they deserve, and enshrine those rights in the constitution – another example of the positive future we all have by voting Yes.”

The rainbow paper outlines seven ways in which independence will help secure greater equality for LGBT people, including enshrining LGBT equality in a written constitution, securing the power to protect and improve equality law and securing the power to protect spending on LGBT equality measures in public services.

In addition, there would be the chance to create an asylum system that offers protection to those facing persecution and take full control over foreign policy and international development, enabling Scotland to “actively promote LGBT rights around the world”.

The organisation argues that the benefits of independence for LGBT people in Scotland compare with the threats posed to equality under Westminster control.

The campaigners point to the lack of constitutional protections and Tory plans to scrap the Human Rights Act and water down the Equality Act.

Patrick Harvie, the openly bisexual leader of the Scottish Greens, added: “Holyrood is a parliament which has never once voted against any aspect of LGBT equality, and that’s not something that can be said of Westminster.

“There are many opportunities which independence offers, from a humane asylum system to constitutional protection for all citizens’ equality. We have nothing to fear from independence, and much to gain.”

But a spokesman for the pro-union Better Together camp said the UK’s record on LGBT rights is something people can be proud of.

“The UK has been voted the best place to be LGBT in Europe for three years running,” he said.

“The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) reports on the LGBT rights record of European countries. For the third year in a row, the UK came out on top, scoring 82 per cent – a 5 per cent increase on the 2013 figure. This score put the UK LGBT rights record ahead of countries like Norway and Sweden.”

The Scottish Parliament currently has control over some, but not all, areas affecting LGBT equality with powers over areas including justice, family law, education and health, and 
can decide how to spend the block grant from the UK government.

The rainbow paper highlights the need for control over equality law so that Scotland can protect the progress that has been made on LGBT equality in recent years, and address deficiencies where Westminster has yet to act.

This includes protection from discrimination for all transgender and intersex people, equal pensions provision for same-sex couples, and ensuring that sexual orientation is counted as a protected characteristic from harassment.