Humza Yousaf responds to our open letter to SNP leadership candidates
March 8, 2023
Ten days ago, on 27 February 2023, we wrote an open letter to the three candidates for leadership of the SNP, Kate Forbes, Ash Regan, and Humza Yousaf, asking for assurances on some our key commitments this year.
Humza Yousaf was the first candidate to respond to our letter, on 7 March. He committed to reintroducing legislation to enshrine the UNCRC in Scottish law and stated his “personal and unequivocal support” for a proposed law to create protest-free zones round abortion services. He also committed to decriminalising abortion by the end of this parliament and to ending a “post-code lottery” for abortion care through funding and training (without promising abortion would be available up to 24 weeks in every part of Scotland).
Mr. Yousaf remains unconvinced by a forthcoming bill on assisted dying but stated he would listen to amendments and ensure a free vote. He did not respond to a question concerning his commitment to the Rabat Plan of Action in forming guidance for the enactment of the Hate Crime & Public Order (Scotland) Act, including repealing blasphemy laws.
Below is Mr. Yousaf’s response in full. As of 8 March 2023 we have received no communication from Kate Forbes or Ash Regan.
Humza Yousaf Campaign
7th March 2023
Dear Will Norton
Many thanks for your letter outlining some of your key concerns. I have responded to your questions, in detail, below and I hope this satisfies some of your concerns you have on some very important issues.
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? Should this legislation pass, public bodies will need to have engaged with its provisions so that the Act can be enacted effectively and efficiently.
You may be aware that I did vote against the Assisted Dying Bill in 2014. For this Bill, I would seek reassurances that it has the right safeguarding protections for some of our most vulnerable people. It would be very important to me, then, to engage with stakeholders and relevant groups to ensure that any bill being proposed protects everyone involved.
Whilst I am yet to be convinced by the bill, what I can assure you is that I will eagerly engage with proposed legislation and look upon amendments going forward. I should also note that there is no party policy on this issue and, if First Minister, I believe that this should continue to be a free vote in Government.
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.
I am absolutely committed to ensuring women’s safety and dignity in accessing abortion services. This will include my personal and unequivocal support for Gillian Mackay’s Abortion Services safe access zones. Access to abortion is a healthcare right. It is about women’s right. I’m going to support the Bill wholeheartedly. We must get the Safe Access Zones done in Scotland.
As First Minister I will commit to ensure safe and secure access for women seeking abortions, and I have already committed to more clinical training to ensure this. Abortion services should not be a post-code lottery, and I will look to improve services to prevent travel inside of Scotland, and to England.
I have committed to bring forward legislation that will decriminalise abortion by the end of this parliament. As First Minister I will bring this forward as a matter of priority.
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’?
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill was an important piece of legislation that protected children and ensured they had rights in the same way all other members of society do. That the UK government saw fit to block this legislation after receiving unanimous support within the Scottish parliament was an affront – to our children and to our parliament. As First Minister I will take this legislation forward, making the necessary changes to bringing it within the competence of the Scottish parliament. I have already promised to stand up for the rights of all people again and again. Children’s rights are no exception to that.
I am aware of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child 2016 and its recommendations regarding this. As you will be aware, I do intend to advance the Scottish Government’s Human Rights Bill. I would expect this bill, in addition to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill will allow an opportunity for this to be discussed and taken forward, if appropriate.
With best wishes
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