Tackling Homophobia in Sport – 19th September 2017

 

In opening the debate, I take the opportunity to welcome lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights campaigners and activists to the public gallery, and I thank members from across the chamber for supporting my motion on tackling homophobia in sport and thereby enabling the debate to take place.

Almost two decades since the formation of the Scottish Parliament, massive gains have been made in LGBT rights in Scotland. Rights such as equal marriage rights have been hard fought for by tens of thousands of strong, proud LGBT activists and campaigners, but despite those advances, discrimination against LGBT people persists in all walks of Scottish society.

Recent research by Stonewall Scotland highlights the particular issue of LGBT discrimination in Scottish sport. A staggering 46 per cent of LGBT people do not find sporting events to be welcoming spaces, and more than one in 10 LGBT people avoid going to the gym or participating in sports groups because of fear of discrimination and harassment. For trans people, that figure shoots up to 39 per cent.

It is clear that there is a particular issue with LGBT discrimination in Scottish football and football more generally. Research by the Equality Network back in 2012 identified football as the sport that had the biggest challenges to overcome in relation to LGBT inclusivity. It is vital that the culture in sport—particularly the culture in football—changes.

Education, LGBT rights campaigns and visible role models are all important mechanisms that can help in the battle to eradicate LGBT discrimination in football and in wider society.

I would like to mention LEAP Sports Scotland, which is an LGBTI sports charity that works for the inclusion of LGBT sports participants and seeks to tackle homophobia and transphobia. I had the pleasure of meeting staff and volunteers of LEAP Sports at Pride house in Glasgow during the 2014 Commonwealth games, and I encourage members and visitors to the gallery to visit the organisation’s website to see what they can do to support its work.

Research by Stonewall Scotland revealed that a shocking 70 per cent of fans had heard homophobic abuse in the stands at a football game.

One of the respondents in Stonewall’s research commented:

“Men in the crowd around me at a football match using the term ‘gay’ in a derogatory manner to refer to the players on the pitch. Made me extremely uncomfortable but I didn’t feel in a position to challenge them.”

Among the common forms of discrimination that are experienced by LGBT people when participating in or spectating at sport are the use of homophobic or transphobic language and the use of stereotypes about sexual orientation and gender identity.

Such stereotypes are dangerous and only serve to reinforce prejudice against LGBT people.

According to Scottish Government statistics regarding sexual orientation, around 100,000 people in Scotland identify themselves as “LGB and Other”. However, there are still no openly gay or bisexual male professional footballers in Scotland or across the UK.

The lack of a visible role model for LGBT people in professional football in Scotland is of real concern, because it makes it extremely difficult for a young gay or bi male to feel confident about being themselves if they cannot see anyone else like them in the sport.

It is incredibly important that the governing body of Scottish football, professional football clubs, LGBT groups and this Parliament work collaboratively to create the right environment for players to feel comfortable about coming out.

I was extremely pleased that 13 professional football clubs took the lead in eliminating LGBT discrimination by signing up to the Equality Network’s LGBT sports charter.

Current signatories to the charter are Aberdeen, Airdrie, Albion Rovers, Celtic, Dumbarton, Elgin City, Forfar Athletic, Hearts, Hibs, Partick Thistle, Peterhead, Rangers and St Johnstone, and there are a further six professional clubs that are currently in contact with the Equality Network with a view to signing up to the charter.

Aberdeen fans have proved to be a shining example. They are leading the way in tackling homophobia and promoting equality and diversity by establishing the first LGBT supporters group in Scotland, which is known as the “Proud Dons”.

Dumbarton FC has also proved itself to be a modern and inclusive club by ensuring the club’s commitment to equality and diversity through its anti-discrimination policy. In the contract of each footballer and employee of Dumbarton FC, there is a clause stating that the club is opposed to racism, sectarianism, bigotry and discrimination of any form, including on the basis of gender or sexual orientation.

I again congratulate and thank those professional football clubs and other sporting institutions that have already signed up to the LGBT sports charter, and I urge other professional football clubs and governing bodies to reach out to the Equality Network and to sign up.

It is vitally important that sports organisations take the lead in changing the culture in Scottish sports by tackling and eradicating LGBT discrimination to ensure that sports clubs, gyms, stadiums and arenas are modern, inclusive and welcoming to all people, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

 

Dignity, Equality and Human Rights for all – 19th September 2017

 

I welcome the opportunity to speak in the debate and I thank the Scottish Government for bringing these important issues to the chamber to discuss.

Dignity, equality and human rights for all should be at the heart of all democratically elected Governments and Parliaments across the world. Unfortunately, in too many parts of the world, they are not.

To me, “Dignity, equality and human rights for all” is much more than the title of a motion; it is what drives me in my politics and when fighting for my constituents.

Our human rights have been fought for and won over many years and to make any attempt to strip them back would be an affront to our standing in the world and an assault on our shared decency.

I cannot take comfort in the idea of the Tories replacing the Human Rights Act 1998 with a British bill of rights. The thought of a Tory Government meddling with basic rights is horrendous and we as a Parliament must use our strength to resist any attempt to repeal the 1998 act.

On issues such as LGBT rights, our Parliament has been a shining light over the past 20 years. From repealing section 28 to the introduction of equal marriage, we have always sought—and will continue to seek—to do the right thing.

On disability rights, we have united in opposition to shameful actions imposed by the Tories. From welfare cuts that withdraw the basic needs of disabled people to supported employment being stripped away, we have made our voice clear that people with disabilities deserve much better.

Recently the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has expressed its dissatisfaction with the Tory Government over its treatment of some of the most vulnerable members of our society.

In assessing the welfare cuts imposed on disabled people, the CRPD has previously said that the welfare reforms have led to “grave and systematic violations” of disabled people’s rights.

The motion asks for Parliament to support “embedding a human rights-based approach” in our public services.

Our amendment adds to that in calling for human rights to be viewed as a broad-based principle, encompassing workers’ rights.

This is the right path to take and my discussions with equality, disability and human rights groups also inform me that the Government’s approach is the right one.

During the summer recess, I visited the asylum seeker housing project in Glasgow, which helps asylum seekers with their accommodation rights.

I was appalled to learn of the treatment that many asylum seekers face, not from the community that they reside in but from the organisation that is contracted to accommodate and support them.

If we are serious about embedding a human rights approach into public services, we must call on the UK Home Office to respect that decision and to treat people fleeing persecution, war and terror with much more respect and to provide the rights that we expect for ourselves.

I thank the Scottish Government for holding this debate and I welcome the statements made by the First Minister during the programme for government on protecting our human rights and guaranteeing them for all those who live in Scotland.

Chamber Railway Policing

Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill – 27th June 2017

In closing for Scottish Labour, I repeat the stance taken by my colleagues that we do not support the general principles of the Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill.

 As a member of the Justice Committee, I thank the witnesses for their input and evidence, and the clerks for their support during the stage 1 inquiry. However, I do not share the majority opinion of the committee in supporting the bill.

The TSSA, the RMT, ASLEF and the British Transport Police Federation all oppose the proposed merger, and for serious and justifiable reasons. Those are the people who know what is best for the security and safety of the staff and passengers of our railways.

 While we agreed to the devolution of the function of railway policing by the Smith commission, there was no agreement about what that devolution would look like. Further, no party has a manifesto commitment to integrate D division into Police Scotland.

The Smith commission recommended that:

“The functions of the British Transport Police in Scotland will be a devolved matter.”

As my colleague Neil Bibby rightly said,

“it would be profoundly wrong to suggest that the integration of the BTP into Police Scotland is somehow a requirement or a stipulation of the Smith agreement”.

Questions have therefore arisen over the SNP’s motive in going further than Smith’s proposals.

The Transport Salaried Staffs Association believes that

“the desire to integrate is the product first and foremost of a political agenda that overrides the implications for policing that ensures the safety and security of rail passengers and workers as well as the infrastructure of the railway system.”

Those are strong words, but they are words from those who know better than the transport minister and the justice minister about what is best when policing our transport system.

The risks of the merger have been warned of by unions representing rail and British Transport Police staff. Those identified risks cover the impact on cross-border services, a dilution of expertise and skills, retaining the skilled and experienced BTP staff, the potential impact on safety and security, and the unknown costs of training for rail operators and Police Scotland.

 As my colleague Elaine Smith pointed out, that is why the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers has warned:

“We have not ruled out the option of taking industrial action to retain BTP officers on the railway, because we are concerned about the safety of railway staff and passengers on trains in Scotland.”Official Report, Justice Committee, 14 March 2017; c 41.]

We need cast-iron guarantees from the Government that no existing terms or conditions of BTP officers and staff will be diluted and that any new officers will not be paid less if the integration succeeds. I accept that guarantees have been given about the triple lock, but that has not satisfied the staff associations, and much more needs to be done.

I share the Justice Committee’s apprehensions about the financial memorandum that accompanies the bill. In its desire unnecessarily to break up the BTP, the Government has not done its homework and its costing.

 For example, on training costs, Assistant Chief Constable Higgins said that Police Scotland would provide railway policing training for all officers. That led Nigel Goddard of the BTP Federation and Chief Superintendent McBride of the BTP superintendents branch to join the RMT and Virgin Trains in questioning the reality of the costs behind such a training scheme. The transport minister does not know the costs, the rail operators do not know the costs, the unions do not know the costs, and even Police Scotland does not know the costs.

The bill is no further forward on cost and has no support from the workforce. There is no confidence that the Government is prepared to deal with the risks arising from the proposed merger. There is no case for the bill and it should be scrapped. If the BTP isn’t broke, why fix it? Why risk making things worse?

The Scottish Government should listen to the officers on the ground, the railway staff and their unions, the passengers and the rail operators, and scrap the bill. That is why Scottish Labour will vote against it today.

 

Limitations (Childhood Abuse) (Scotland) Bill – 22nd June 2017

 

I begin my speech by reaffirming the support of Labour members for the Limitation (Childhood Abuse) (Scotland) Bill.

I take this opportunity to thank the Government, the Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs and the external organisations for their input throughout the Justice Committee’s evidence sessions.

At stage 1 of the bill proceedings, I praised the outstanding bravery of the survivors of childhood abuse in giving us their input throughout the process.

It is important that today I repeat my admiration for the survivors in helping to progress the bill. Without their bravery, patience and co-operation, the bill would not have been possible.

The committee heard from a range of stakeholders that removing the time bar will create choices that some survivors will prefer to make and some will not.

At stage 1, I called for the right support to be made available to survivors in setting out their options, and I cannot stress enough the importance of that. In taking action through the courts, the survivor will have to face a series of obstacles in providing evidence and reliving the horrors that they faced.

That is why Laura Dunlop QC warned that some action could do “more harm than good”, which is a quote that I highlighted at stage 1 and one that must be re-emphasised.

It is of the utmost importance that throughout the process and for as long after the process as they require, all survivors have access to support and guidance that is tailored to their needs, to ensure that they do not suffer more trauma.

I thank the minister for the amendment that was lodged at stage 2. As Alex Cole-Hamilton said, ensuring that neglect is covered by the definition of abuse gives the certainty that many of those who provided evidence to the committee asked for. Although neglect was covered in the bill as introduced, giving the term its own place provides clarity for survivors, as Liam McArthur highlighted at stage 2.

The inclusion of neglect rightly widens the scope of the bill and reflects the evidence that we heard and the concerns that survivors raised about the definition. The wider definition will ensure maximum support and protection for all survivors.

Today is a historic day. The passing of the bill will provide redress that thousands of survivors of childhood abuse have been unable to access for decades.

It is clear from this afternoon’s debate that all parties represented in this chamber are committed to the principles and passing of the bill.

No speech was more powerful or persuasive today than Johann Lamont’s. There is a clear consensus that the appropriate support must be available to all survivors who decide to pursue a civil action, and that all survivors should have guidance if they choose to take forward a claim.

In closing for Scottish Labour, I would like to reaffirm our support for the bill, and once again I thank every survivor for their bravery, patience and support during the legislative process of the bill. From the consultation process through to the passing of the bill today, the bravery, patience and support that survivors have shown has been commendable.

 

Human Trafficking and Exploitation – 13th June 2017

It would be remiss of me not to mention the contribution of my colleague Jenny Marra, who, as my colleague Claire Baker referred to, worked tirelessly to force the issue of human trafficking on to the Scottish Government’s agenda.

The tone in the chamber has rightly been consensual. There is a clear commitment from parties of all colours to end the truly abhorrent crime of human trafficking.

Human trafficking is a stain on our society and an abuse of human rights and dignity. I reiterate Scottish Labour’s support for the Government’s strategy to tackle human trafficking and exploitation, which has the unequivocal aim of making Scotland a hostile place for human traffickers.

However, along with my Scottish Labour colleagues, I note with concern the Scottish National Party’s cuts to local authorities and Police Scotland, which I am concerned may hinder the implementation and effectiveness of the strategy.

Human trafficking is degrading and dehumanising. There can be few worse crimes than a transaction involving the selling and exploitation of one human being by another. Quite simply, it is a human rights abuse. It is a crime lacking in humanity and one that is motivated by greed.

Human trafficking relies on control, with victims often subject to grooming and violence from their traffickers. Make absolutely no mistake: human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery.

I am sure that every member of the Scottish Parliament and all members of the public who watched last month’s BBC Scotland documentary “Humans for Sale” will have been touched by the immense suffering that is caused by this truly abhorrent and awful crime.

The documentary revealed women’s harrowing experiences of sham marriages, rape and sexual exploitation. Europol has stated that Scotland is being specifically targeted by human traffickers, with victims, particularly young women, being recruited by organised crime gangs before being sold to potential grooms.

Across Scotland, a plethora of fantastic third sector and voluntary organisations are working to support victims of human trafficking. For example, there is the TARA service, which operates in the Glasgow region; Migrant Help and Childline, which operate across Britain; and the Scottish women’s rights centre, which has bases in Hamilton and Glasgow.

Those organisations deserve recognition for their incredible work in offering support and advice to victims of human trafficking—undoubtedly, they are the best of us. They are full of humanity, and they are shining examples of hope, despite the fact that they operate in incredibly difficult circumstances.

As I come to a close, I reiterate Scottish Labour’s support for the Scottish Government’s trafficking and exploitation strategy.

However, I must once again emphasise that the Scottish Government’s cuts to Police Scotland and local authorities risk hindering the implementation and effectiveness of the strategy. It is vital that this abhorrent crime—this human rights abuse and form of modern-day slavery—is ended once and for all. Scotland must become a hostile place for traffickers.

 

Mary IWD

International Women’s Day Debate – 7th March 2017

 

March 8 is an important date for women around the world each year, whether in the first or third world, or in developed or developing countries, or rich or poor countries. It is a day on which we remind ourselves of the struggle to achieve equality that so many women have fought and died for over the decades and centuries. It is also a stark reminder of how far we have still to go. No matter the issue—equal pay, employment opportunities, gender-based violence or respect and recognition for achievements and roles in society—women are still fighting for equality and parity.

That is why we must be bold for change: the hashtag #BeBoldForChange is the defining theme of international women’s day in 2017. To be bold, women must be seen and heard, we must act on our beliefs and promises, and we must lead. Improving female representation in the workplace is a challenge for any Government, unless it is bold. The Scottish Government’s initiative, “Partnership for change 50:50 by 2020”, is a step in the right direction, but when we see the statistics on female representation on boards of public and private organisations, we can see that it is not enough. There is no female chief executive officer in any of Scotland’s top companies and only one in four company directors is female. In the public sector, only 28 per cent of chief executives are women. When we compare those figures to the fact that women make up 52 per cent of Scotland’s population, we should be embarrassed as a nation that women are not offered the same opportunities as men. The reasons for that are social and economic, and they go back decades, if not centuries.

It is less than 100 years since women won the right to vote, and we are still underrepresented in public and political life. The Engender briefing for today’s debate shows that although there has been an increase in the proportion of female Government ministers, members of Parliament, and local authority chief executives, the total of each is no more than 25 per cent. We know there is still a lot of work ahead, so regardless of party affiliation and political or religious beliefs, we should all work together as one to overcome the social and economic problems that leave many women behind.

As we have heard, the global gender pay gap is not expected to close until 2186—in 169 years—and means that our daughters, their daughters, their daughters and possibly even their daughters will still be paid less than men for the same work. Research tells us that the UK gender pay gap will close by 2069.

The gender pay gap does not reveal the many other ways in which women lose out in the work place. Women are more likely than men to be employed in part-time roles and tend to be socialised into taking on unpaid roles such as caring for children and elderly relatives. It is estimated that globally women spend an average of 4.5 hours per day on unpaid work. The difference is even greater in the developing world. It is thought that in India, for example, women undertake 6 hours of unpaid work each day, with men carrying out less than 1 hour. Where women do participate in the world of work, they tend to be concentrated in the low-paid and lower-skilled roles that are often referred to as the five Cs—cleaning, catering, clerical, cashiering and caring work. Research also shows that only one in five people working in science, technology, engineering and maths jobs is a woman.

Occupational segregation is unfair not only to women who find that opportunities are closed to them, but to all. It is damaging to our cultures and societies that women cannot express themselves whole-heartedly or aim to achieve better for themselves or their children.

I take this opportunity to highlight some fantastic female role models in my home area of Renfrewshire. We have women running our airport, our college and our council, and taking on the most daring of challenges to raise money for charity. So, in closing, I praise Amanda McMillan of Glasgow airport, Audrey Cumberford of West College Scotland, and Renfrewshire Council’s Sandra Black and Provost Anne Hall.

 

chamber-fgm

Eradication of FGM and all other forms of so-called honour-based violence – 1st February 2017.

I thank the Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities for her motion highlighting the important work that is being done to tackle and end female genital mutilation and so-called honour-based violence, and for bringing the motion to the chamber to allow us to debate the issue. Speaking on behalf of Scottish Labour, I am happy to confirm that we will support the Government’s motion and the Conservative amendment. I ask for support for our amendment. It might be small in detail, but it is hugely significant with regard to meeting our shared ambitions.

It is with regret and sadness that I note that we require this debate and that we need to have an international day of zero tolerance for female genital mutilation. I feel regret and sadness knowing that medieval, barbaric and horrific acts of violence and mutilation are still carried out in the 21st century, primarily against young women and children. There will be few countries, if any, in the world that are not affected in some way by female genital mutilation or honour-based violence.

Therefore, it is right that the Scottish Parliament helps in the global fight to shine a light on such behaviours and to raise awareness of the dangers of the violence and cruelty that are involved in FGM and honour-based violence, in the hope of eradicating them.

I am sure that members across the chamber felt anger when reading the article entitled “An Agonising Choice” that was published in The Economist last June and which called for a new approach that supports minor forms of FGM. The author tried to argue that allowing minor forms of FGM that cause no long-lasting harm is better than “being butchered in a back room by a village elder”.

Accepting that proposal would be a backwards step and would send the wrong message—that the abuse and mutilation of a child through FGM is somehow acceptable.

Campaign groups across the UK were right to quickly condemn the article, and The Guardian reported that the article gave ammunition to supporters and practitioners of FGM, who could claim that some in the west were on their side. Scottish Labour—and, I am sure, members across the chamber—will never give those ideas the time of day. Instead, we will continue to stand on the side of the women, girls and families who are affected by FGM, and endeavour to bring an end to this barbarity.

The World Health Organization estimates that more than 125 million women and girls are affected by FGM. The incidence of FGM tends to be concentrated in pockets of the middle east, across central Africa and, increasingly, in south Asia. Inspiration in tackling FGM can be taken from the work of non-governmental organisations in communities across the world.

The work of Sponsored Arts for Education—SAFE—Kenya is an illuminating example of that. Female genital mutilation is illegal in Kenya, but is still widely practised in rural areas across the country as a rite of passage. SAFE Kenya has taken a community-based approach to tackling that gender-based violence, with three projects that are aimed at changing the cultural practices that normalise FGM. Before SAFE Kenya started working in the Loita hills in Kenya, the rate of FGM in the region was 98 per cent. After the promotion of an alternative rite of passage, the rate has dropped by 20 per cent.

The practice of FGM and honour-based violence is driven by the deep-rooted unequal power relationship between men and women across the globe. Education is key to tackling FGM and honour-based violence. A grass-roots approach that aims to alter cultural views on FGM might be a slow process, but it is a necessary one and an effective means in the fight to eradicate FGM across the globe.

It is important to teach young boys and men that FGM is an extremely dangerous procedure that is not a religious requirement, a prerequisite for marriage or a rite-of-passage ritual. It is quite simply an unnecessary, barbaric act that violates women’s and girls’ human rights.

It is estimated that 24,000 people living in Scotland were born in FGM-practising countries, and that 12 women in the United Kingdom each year lose their lives to honour killings.

All women and girls, in communities the length and breadth of Scotland, must feel safe, respected and equal. It is the duty of this Parliament to make that ambition a priority.

Although we must continue to support the victims of FGM in Scotland, we must also contribute to the global campaign to eradicate the practice of FGM. The United Nations international day of zero tolerance for female genital mutilation is a prime opportunity for the global community to use the power of its collective voice to show its strength in condemning FGM as a barbaric act.

In closing, I repeat our support for both the Government motion and the Conservative amendment. I ask that we recognise the role that faith leaders, who are well respected by their communities, can play in eradicating FGM and honour-based violence.

The Scottish Government’s national action plan is an important aspect of its commitment to ending FGM in a generation. I am happy to work with the cabinet secretary and the minister to take that plan forward.

I move amendment S5M-03761.2, to insert after “long term”:

“; further recognises that faith leaders of communities potentially affected by FGM and so-called honour-based violence have a role to play in working to change cultural attitudes”.

mary-fee-chamber-nov-2016

Paisley for City of Culture 2021 – 7th December 2016 – Scottish Parliament

As we have heard, Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli is quoted as saying

“keep your eye on Paisley”,

and I am glad that the Scottish Parliament is doing that today.

I thank George Adam for lodging the motion and helping to promote the Paisley bid for 2021 UK city of culture. I am proud to support Paisley, which is a town that I have represented for nearly 10 years as a councillor and as an MSP.

Renfrewshire as a whole has a long history, from the 6th and 7th centuries, when St Mirren was said to have established the Paisley settlement, through to the time of the house of Stuart in the 14th and 15th centuries, and on to the industrial revolution in the 1800s, which made Paisley known as a centre for textiles across the world. That rich history is the basis of the bid for 2021 city of culture.

People take great pride in Paisley, and they have continued the legacy of Sir Thomas Coats to make the town great. I congratulate Councillor Mark Macmillan—he is in the public gallery today—on his leadership of Renfrewshire Council and on his initiative to rally the town behind the grand idea of the bid. Councillor Macmillan has already announced his retirement from local politics as of May next year, but I am sure that he will continue to play a strong role in ensuring that Paisley wins the bid.

There are many famous and celebrated people from music, art and literature who have placed the town on the cultural map and, in his motion, George Adam referenced a few of them.

We also have a hidden set of Paisley champions: the women who helped to shape our history and the women who are spearheading the campaign for city of culture status. Paisley’s strong threadmaking traditions were supported by one of the largest female workforces in Europe, and the Govan rent strike hero, Mary Barbour, was originally from nearby Kilbarchan. Paisley has a heritage of strong women, and a noted rebellious side.

Today’s strong Paisley women include Jean Cameron, the director of the 2021 bid, who is leading the charge to change Paisley for the better; Amanda McMillan, one of only two female managing directors of European airports, who is helping to shape and boost our local economy; and strong political women who have represented the area, such as Trish Godman, Wendy Alexander and Mhairi Black.

A love of and pride in Paisley’s culture and heritage are woven into the fabric of the people of the town. I cannot think of any other town or city that is more deserving of the status of UK city of culture. I finish with the Benjamin Disraeli quotation that I started with:

“keep your eye on Paisley.”


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