April 4, 2011

IconScottish parliament aims for equality

Gay rights groups believe that the LGB population is still greatly underrepresented in both Scottish and Welsh politics.

6% of the general population is thought to be gay, lesbian or bisexual. Using that measure, there should be eight members of the Scottish parliament (MSPs) who identify as LGB and around three should be sitting in the Welsh assembly. There are currently four openly lesbian, gay and bisexual MSPs all of whom are competing for re-election on 5 May. In addition, several more are standing, including openly lesbian Tory candidate, Ruth Davidson, in Glasgow. In comparison, the National Assembly for Wales has no openly LGB members. There are at least six standing in the 60 seats next month, although few of them look likely to be elected. A homophobic attack on a gay candidate in south Wales recently saw abuse scratched on a car. However, Wales have previously returned two openly gay MPs to Westminister.

Andrew White, of Stonewall Wales, recently met party leaders to discuss the problem and was heartened by their responses. He said, “I’m convinced that all four parties at the very top are committed to diversity…It’s just whether the candidates have yet come to a position where they feel they can be public with the electorate.” White also points out that the Welsh assembly has brought in strict new rules on protecting and promoting equality in the public sector.

Claire Murray, of Stonewall Scotland, explained that the organisation would like to see something closer to 6% membership at Holyrood: “In terms of being a workplace, we would hope it would somewhere where people were comfortable being out…We know people perform better when they can be themselves and are happy – for people representing constituencies, that’s likely to be even more the case.”

Elections for the Scottish parliament and Welsh assembly will take place on 5 May. Also taking place on this day are elections for the Northern Ireland assembly, local elections in England and Northern Ireland, and the AV referendum.

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