The new year is approaching. And the world feels like a dark and scary place in lots of ways. So, to warm the cockles during the festive season, here’s an incomplete rundown of some good news for humanists across 2023, from Scotland and around the world.

January

Assisted dying legislation is enacted in Queensland and South Australia.

February

Humza Yousaf denounces anti-abortion protests outside healthcare facilities during his successful bid for first minister. Energy Agency figures suggest renewables will become world’s top source of electricity by 2025.

March

Writing to Humanist Society Scotland during his leadership campaign, Humza Yousaf commits to buffer zone legislation and decriminalising abortion by the end of the parliamentary term. Data shows carbon-free sources supplied over 40% of US energy output in 2022.

April

Counter-protest artworks created to fight the 40 Days for Life harassment campaign outside abortion facilities at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow make national news, generating visibility and support for the buffer-zones cause. Statistics show the number of wild tigers in India has doubled since 2010.

A sparkly protest placard in pink and purple bubble writing reads "Yer Da Protests Abortion."
A COUNTERPROTEST PLACARD HUNG OUTSIDE QEU HOSPITAL, Glasgow, IN APRIL. Image c. WOMENS LIBRARY GLASGOW

May

Orkney Council removes voting rights from religious reps on its education committee. Highland Council follows suit. Portugal votes to legalise assisted dying.

June

Fife Council removes religious voting rights from its education committee. Stirling Council votes to remove them after the next local council election. The Royal College of Surgeons in England drops its official stance of opposition to assisted dying. Our CEO is invited to a multi-faith celebration by Scottish Government for the first time. Gillian Mackay’s final buffer zones bill is lodged at Holyrood.

July

Stats released by NRS show that more humanist weddings were conducted in 2022 than faith and other belief-based marriages of all kinds combined. Scottish Government accepts a call from 18 organisations including Humanist Society Scotland to set up an expert working group on decriminalising abortion. Amazon deforestation drops 34% in first six months of Lula presidency following the ousting of far-right leader Jair Bolsonaro.

August

Edinburgh Council removes religious reps’ votes on education committee.

Fraser Sutherland, Rachel Clarke, Isioma Okolo, Gemma Clark, Lucy Grieve, Gillian Mackay, Jennifer Buchan.

Speakers at our 2023 conference with our CEO Fraser Sutherland and Chair Jennifer Buchan. Photo Jack Donaghy

September

Polling from YouGov shows that 79% of disabled people in Scotland support legalising assisted dying. Poland’s far-right Law and Justice Party loses the general election.

October

The Isle of Man’s parliament backs a key vote to legalise assisted dying, with assisted dying likely to be legal for Manx citizens from 2025. Gillian Mackay’s bill for safe access zones around abortion clinics begins its passage through Holyrood with strong cross-party support. We discuss reproductive rights at our annual conference.

November

New South Wales becomes the final Australian state to put assisted dying laws into effect. In “red state” Ohio, voters opt to add abortion rights to the state constitution. Amidst an ongoing humanitarian crisis in Palestine, Scottish Parliament votes for a ceasefire in Gaza and the unconditional release of all hostages held by Hamas.

December

An amended version of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child passes into Scottish law after challenges from the UK supreme court.

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Image: Humanist celebrant Maureen Kettle conducts Andrew and Callum’s wedding at Enterkine Country House. C. Archibald Photography.

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