Our priorities for Humza Yousaf
April 25, 2023
The current parliamentary term could be a pivotal time for humanism in Scotland. We look forward to the passing of a law to protect women from harassment outside abortion clinics, and we hope that new rules will follow to ensure dignity in dying. But we need your help to keep making noise about these causes, particularly given our new first minister’s uncertainty about right-to-die legislation.
There are wide-reaching, positive social changes being discussed at Parliament right now, and a new first minister gives us a fresh chance to make our case. But we need your help to get over the line on ensuring protest-free access to abortion services and establishing a compassionate end-of-life choice for dying people.Fraser Sutherland, CEO of Humanist Society Scotland.
It’s particularly important we convince Humza Yousaf of the need for assisted dying laws in Scotland, as he’s not fully behind the bill yet. Please consider joining, supporting, or donating to Humanist Society Scotland.
As humanists, we want people to have as much choice as possible over the way they die. In 2021, Liam McArthur MSP proposed a new law that would allow assisted dying for terminally ill adults in Scotland. The proposed law would only apply to adults at the end of their life. It would also include safeguards for people with disabilities. A consultation on the idea received a record-breaking 14,000 responses with a large majority in favour. Soon, Mr McArthur’s bill will be in front of the Scottish parliament. It could become law within a couple of years, but our new first minister, Humza Yousaf, has stated he is “yet to be convinced” by the bill. To make change happen we need as much public support as possible. Find out more here.
My Beliefs, My Choice campaign
In Scotland, children at non-denominational schools (schools that aren’t connected to a particular religion) still have to take part in compulsory “religious observance.” This could mean a representative of a local church preaching to them or leading prayers during assembly. We understand religion is an important topic to cover in professionally-led education but we believe the system relating to religious worship should be “opt in.” At present, to opt out, children need support from their parents. We believe children can make this decision themselves and that denying them that right does not meet the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Scottish law follows. Find out more about our work and campaign on this issue here.
Buffer zones for abortion clinics
Women should be able to make decisions about their own bodies without fear of intimidation from faith-based groups. That’s why we support Back Off Scotland’s campaign to introduce buffer zones around abortion clinics, so that religious protestors cannot harass women accessing them. This year, a bill ensuring safe access to abortion services is going to be discussed at Holyrood, and it could become law. We will keep advocating to ensure that the bill is successful, so that Scotland catches up with the rest of the UK, where similar legislation was introduced in October last year. Find out more here.
Gender Recognition Act reform
We support a person’s right to live and be legally recognised as the gender that they identify with. We supported the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill that was passed at Holyrood, and that was designed to simplify the process of obtaining a Gender Recognition Certificate. However, in January 2023, the UK government blocked the bill from becoming law in Scotland, using powers it retains over the Scottish parliament. We oppose this decision and we welcome Humza Yousaf’s decision to mount a legal challenge to the block. Find out more about our work on Gender Recognition Act reform here.
Fair School Votes campaign
Scotland is a more secular country than ever. A YouGov poll undertaken for Humanist Society Scotland last year found that just one in three Scots identifies as religious, and only 18% attend church. But education has not kept up with the pace of change. There are still laws which allow unelected church representatives to have voting rights on local education boards. This makes a real difference to the way schools are run and we want the Scottish Government to scrap the rules. You can find out more about the campaign and sign our petition here.
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