Trans allies win the day in Scottish Parliament vote
It had been building for some years. Then, last winter, following gridlock in the Scottish Parliament over reform of the Gender Recognition Act, widespread and extremely heated disputes between SNP MPs and MSPs boiled over into the public eye. Within weeks a new party was born, and the SNP right suddenly appeared to be fleeing to become ‘Alba’.
It seemed the stage was set for the anti-trans lobby to make a huge impact on Scottish politics for the foreseeable future. But – in the end – it simply hasn’t materialised.
Alex ‘alleged sex pest‘ Salmond launched Alba immediately after his failed bid to oust First Minister Nicola Sturgeon over his sexual harrasment court case. Alongwith a smattering of MPs and Councillors, it had the support of blogger Wings Over Scotland, known for failing to defend his homophic remarks in court, and the backing of forwomen.scot, who recently attempted, and failed, to legally challenge the Scottish Government’s inclusion of trans women in equality legislation. In their short life one of Alba’s only notable policy interventions was to spread lies about publicly-funded LGBT rights organisations.
Alba have totally failed in their bid for the Scottish Parliament with no MSPs won. Early tallies suggested the party didn’t make 2%.
Still inside the SNP was Joan McAlpine, previously an MSP for South Scotland. She attended the launch of the notorious LGB Alliance last year and used her position as an MSP to invite openly anti-trans speakers to the Scottish Parliament. She lost both her regional list and constituency runs.
The right of the SNP was widely rumoured to be pushing Joanna Cherry MP to make a leadership bid throughout 2020. Now she’s now looking somewhat stranded. Cherry, who was sacked from the SNP’s front bench in February after attacking the party’s LGBT wing, may also be pondering the result in Edinburgh Central, a seat that turned SNP on Friday, but without Cherry as candidate after she was barred from standing.
Outside the SNP, former MSP Andy Wightman, who, according to the BBC, quit the Scottish Greens amid claims its stance on trans rights was “alienating and provocative”, failed in an independent run for the Highlands & Islands region, scoring just 1.4% of the vote. Andy Wightman denies he opposes trans rights.
Anti-trans sentiment hasn’t been totally defeated. Where it has, it has been down to the electorate to keep it out of Parliament, when it would have been far better if its proponents hadn’t been invited to stand in the first place. It’s clear the SNP still has a problem: John Mason MSP used his victory speech to speak against trans rights.
Nonetheless Nicola Sturgeon has been increasingly vocal in her support for trans rights over the last year, and she now has a clear mandate to lead on trans rights. And with eight new proudly pro-trans rights MSPs elected for the Scottish Greens, the balance in the 129 seat chamber does seem to be tipping.
Maggie Chapman, newly elected for the Greens for North East Scotland, had this to say upon her victory:
And, a word to those who thought that beating up on trans people would be an easy ticket into Parliament … the people of the North East … indeed, the people of Scotland, have rejected you. It is time you left politics. For good. #SP21
— Maggie Chapman (@MaggieChapman) May 8, 2021
And SNP MP Kirsty Blackman was, if anything, even more emphatic:
Alba and their policies have been emphatically rejected. They stood on a transphobic platform and hardly anyone voted for them. Scotland wants GRA reform. We must deliver.
— Kirsty Blackman (@KirstySNP) May 8, 2021
Election results like these could make a big difference to our politics right now.
They will help put to bed the idea that such reactionary politics are popular with the Scottish public.
They will strengthen the leadership of Nicola Sturgeon, who now has the authority to pull her party in the right direction.
And with a group of eight Greens now elected, these results should rebalance the Scottish Parliament towards trans rights, opening a path to real progress.
- This article was amended on 11 May – Editor.