A Scottish Parliament Cross-Party Group (CPG) has been set up to tackle LGBTQ+ issues within government legislation, according to a press release published by The Equality Network.
The press release noted that this is the first time in the 17-year long Scottish Parliamentary history that a CPG concerning LGBTQ+ issues has been formed.
The Equality Network reports that the CPG is being co-convened by MSPs from a variety of parties, including Kezia Dugdale, leader of the Scottish Labour Party,
Jamie Greene, MSP for the Scottish Conservative Party, and Ben Macpherson, MSP for the Scottish National Party.
Patrick Harvie, co-leader of the Scottish Green Party, one of the co-conveners for this CPG, spoke to The Student about the role he hopes the CPG will play in ongoing policy making.
Explaining the role of a CPG, Harvie told The Student: “Cross Party Groups are informal forums for MSPs and external organisations, and are not part of Parliament’s formal decision-making process.”
Regarding this CPG being the first formed around LGBTQ+ matters, Harvie claimed: “[there] has never been a strong appetite for a specific CPG on LGBTQ+ issues, as the agenda is so broad as to cover many different subject areas. Instead, the subject-specific CPGs on issues such as housing, sexual health, international development and others have addressed LGBTQ+ perspectives within their work programmes.
“This has always worked well, and the absence of an LGBTQ+ group has never held back progress on equality policy.”
The LGBTQ+ CPG which has recently been formed refers to its aims on the Scottish Parliament website as: “to promote and discuss issues of importance to the LGBTQ+ community in Scotland with a view to helping make their lives better.”
Scottish Conservative Jamie Greene said in a press release: “[The] formation of this Cross-Party Group will help us address critical issues facing the LGBTQ+ community that have often been largely absent from the mainstream agenda.
“In addition to issues such as Health, Education, Equality and Bullying, we also hope to look at issues such as geriatric care, LGBTQ life in rural Scotland and Transgender issues.”
He continued: “By bringing decision-makers and third sector workers under a single umbrella we can create an effective forum both in discussing and tackling the many issues that still impact the LGBTQ+ community today.
“I am very proud to see this group get off the ground and hope it will make a genuine difference in the lives of people across Scotland,” Greene stated.
Harvie also spoke specifically about the types of changes he hoped to see as a result of prospective progress through the CPG.
“There are already commitments across the political spectrum for progress on inclusive education, reform of gender recognition law, among other priorities.
“I would like to see the group’s members co-ordinate action within the political parties to stop the selection of homophobic/transphobic candidates, however I am doubtful that this will be achieved in the short term,” Harvie told The Student.
While the creation of the CPG puts the LGBTQ+ community under spotlight, Harvie highlighted to The Student that he believes there are still difficulties to be faced when writing policy on LGBTQ+ issues.
“Sadly it remains the case that most political parties still have anti-equality MSPs elected, and I very much doubt that any of them will engage with the CPG,” Harvie said.
Although the MSPs taking part in the CPG remain hopeful about what this group could achieve, Harvie maintained his pragmatic view, expressing: “I’ve been happy to agree to take part, and I will be interested to see if it makes any significant difference to the policy agenda.”
The CPG, although only recently formed, has several organisations with which it is working, such as LGBTQ+ Youth Scotland, Stonewall Scotland and Time for Inclusive Education (TIE).