2024 looks set to be a busy and perhaps defining year for the humanist movement in Scotland. Here’s a rundown of the issues we’ll be working on and the gains we hope to make, from assisted dying to reproductive rights.
2023 was a year of gathering momentum on one of our core campaign areas, assisted dying. Polling released in September showed that 77% of Scottish adults supported assisted dying legislation, including a majority of both disabled and religious voters. But this is the year we hope to see the members’ bill for assisted dying proposed by Liam McArthur MSP brought before Holyrood. It will then be scrutinised by MSPs, committees, and members of the public through a consultation.
If the expected free vote goes our way, we could see assisted dying legislation in Scotland within the next two to three years. We will keep working with our allies at Dignity in Dying, Friends at the End, and other groups to push for this moderate, compassionate, and humane piece of legislation.
We will throw our weight behind the campaign to properly decriminalise abortion in Scotland.
We continue to back the campaign to put buffer zones in place around abortion healthcare facilities to prevent religiously motivated harassment of service users. A members’ bill brought by Gillian Mackay MSP, supported by Back Off Scotland, will be discussed at Holyrood this year. At the moment, we expect the bill to pass through the first stage of voting by early May.
We will continue to lend our support to this vital issue for women and pregnant people’s rights. In particular, we will use our leverage to campaign against so-called defenders of “free speech” and “freedom of religious worship,” who misapply the law to justify their harassment of vulnerable people. And we will throw our weight behind the wider campaign to properly decriminalise abortion in Scotland.
There is no longer any legal or ethical justification to force children to sit through religious observance
Religion in Education
Last year we made huge strides in our campaign to remove unelected religious representatives from local education committees. We saw six local councils opt to remove these undemocratic fragments of religious privilege, ensuring that decisions on local education are taken by elected officials only. This year, we are setting our sights on more councils!
We will also redouble our efforts to end compulsory religious worship in Scotland’s schools. The practice of obliging pupils to undertake religious observance runs contrary to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). Recently, Scotland passed an UNCRC “incorporation” bill. This means that every aspect of Scottish law must comply with UN rules. So, there is no longer any legal or ethical justification to force children to sit through religious observance against their will.
We will join the fight to put a stop to bigoted and cruel ‘conversion therapy’ practices.
LGBT+ Rights and Conversion Therapy
We proudly supported Scottish Trans’s campaign to reform the Gender Recognition Act, to make gender recognition easier and more dignified. However, in December the UK Government successfully blocked Scottish legislation to achieve these aims. So, this year, we will widen the scope of our campaigning for (and as representatives of) the wider LGBTQIA+ community.
Both the UK and Scottish Government are currently considering legislation to end harmful “conversion therapy” practices for LGBT+ people. We will join the fight to put a stop to these bigoted and cruel practices. In particular, we will be looking to ensure that there is no opt-out in any legislation for anti-trans “conversion” practices.
As members of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland, we will continue to mobilise and campaign to call for drastic and immediate action to mitigate the climate crisis. Scotland’s politicians are falling behind on the targets they have set themselves and Scotland is losing its status as a world leader on climate change. We need to push for urgent and fair climate action without delay and will be taking part in SCCS actions and events throughout the year to make our voice heard.
Why not join us?
Humanists are working on some of the most important ethical and cultural issues facing Scotland just now. We do so from a position of secularism and a belief that human beings can fix their own problems without recourse to religion and political factionalism.
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Title image: Road in Quiraing, Skye. C. Y Nakanishi/Creative Commons.
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