The following open letter was sent to all candidates for leadership of the Scottish National Party on 27 February 2023. We asked for assurances related to some of our key commitments this year: smooth implementation of assisted dying legislation; bringing the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into Scottish law; removing the offence of blasphemy and committing to free speech; and ensuring women’s safety and dignity accessing abortions services.
We are writing to you regarding your candidacy for the leadership of the Scottish National Party and the likely next First Minister of Scotland. We would like to ensure your commitment on several issues that are vitally important to Humanist Society Scotland’s supporters and to large proportions of the Scottish population. In particular, we are looking for reassurance regarding your views on ensuring dignity in dying, children’s rights, freedom of speech, and abortion rights. We would like your response to the following questions:
- Will you ensure that the Scottish Government, public bodies and agencies respond positively to parliamentary discussions regarding Liam McArthur MSP’s Assisted Dying for Terminal Ill (Scotland) Bill?
- Will you state your ongoing commitment to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill, and ensure that it is brought back to the Scottish Parliament as a matter of urgency? Will you likewise take immediate action on paragraph 36 of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child 2016 concluding recommendations to ‘ensure that children can independently exercise the right to withdraw from religious worship at school’?
- Will you commit to using the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Rabat Plan of Action in forming guidance for law enforcement and prosecutors for the enactment of the Hate Crime & Public Order (Scotland) Act? There is a need to strike a clear balance in this regard between freedom of expression and prohibitions on discrimination, hostility, and violence. In addition, will you confirm that your government will enact Section 16 of the Act, which removes the common law offence of blasphemy as soon as possible after your election?
- Will you commit to ensuring women’s safety and dignity in accessing abortion services? This includes: a) personally backing Gillian Mackay’s Abortion Services Safe Access Zones (Scotland) Bill; b) ensuring that all Scottish women can access abortion care up to the legal limit of 24 weeks by making sure clinics in every area offer this; c) decriminalising abortion so that accessing this healthcare no longer involves demeaning tests or qualifications.
The above positions not only represent our views as humanists but, we believe, also reflect majority views in Scotland. This letter has been shared with our members and supporters and I look forward to being able to share your response with them as soon as possible.
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