Current Affairs Politics

The SNP – Distinctly Off-Message For Once

There is a major political row rumbling away in Scotland over the recent actions of the SNP’s John Mason, a member of the Scottish Parliament, who has tabled a motion essentially opposing same-sex marriages. The BBC reports that:

‘A senior figure in the SNP has criticised one of his party colleagues over his stance on same-sex marriages.

Nationalist MSP John Mason has tabled a motion at the Scottish parliament stating that no person or organisation should be forced to be involved or to approve of same-sex marriage.

The motion is backed by three other Nationalist MSPs.

Now Alyn Smith MEP, writing in the Scotland on Sunday newspaper, has condemned their actions.

He wrote that he would not tolerate discrimination and said that he demands equality.

He insisted that no church or individual would be forced to approve of or perform gay weddings.

Mr Smith said his colleague’s motion “saddened” him and wrote: “What is in the small, mean, angry heads of bigots is a matter for them.

“I have never asked for their approval, but I demand equality.”

Mr Mason, who represents Glasgow Shettleston, lodged a motion at the parliament earlier this week ahead of the Scottish government’s forthcoming public consultation concerning equal marriage.

It stated: “That the Parliament notes… that while some in society approve of same-sex sexual relationships, others do not agree with them; desires that Scotland should be a pluralistic society where all minorities can live together in peace and mutual tolerance; believes that free speech is a fundamental right and that even when there is disagreement with another person’s views, that person has the right to express these views, and considers that no person or organisation should be forced to be involved in or to approve of same-sex marriages.”

The motion is supported by SNP MSPs Bill Walker, Richard Lyle and Dave Thompson.’

The response by the SNP’s Alyn Smith in the Scotsman presents a very useful description of the current situation in relationship to same-sex partnerships under the law (with the same sort of inequality that applies here too):

‘…while John, or anyone else, does indeed have a right to his views, and we are on most other things on the same side, with that right comes the responsibility to justify them if his views limit the freedom or dignity of others. John does not speak for the SNP any more than I do, but I know I’m with the majority.

Marriage is a legal and binding contract, recognised by the state as A Good Thing, and evidenced when the happy couple sign the official register. Note, and it is important, not when the religious official does whatever he or she does. That is when God recognises it, not the state. The state very wisely leaves God to his or her own practice and belief: a marriage does not take legal effect until signed and registered, in the same way, on the same form for everyone.

Well, actually, not everyone. Until recently, gay couples were excluded.

Our state took the view that a stable loving relationship between two men, or two women, was neither possible nor desirable. A pretty hurtful state of affairs, as well as at variance with reality. Civil Partnerships were made law in 2004, offering the same status, rights and obligations, if not the same name, to gay relationships. One hundred per cent of SNP MPs voted in favour.

So presently a straight couple can get married, but not civil partnered, and a gay couple can get civil partnered but not married. Curiously, we managed to replace discrimination against two groups in our community with discrimination against everybody. I suppose that is progress, after a fashion, but it remains odd if you think about it. However, the rights are the same and the process is the same. The SNP government is committed to a consultation on the pros and cons of equalising these rights. A consultation will be brought forward, and in due course legislation to implement the consultation findings.

Without prejudging the consultation, it would seem pretty clear that in our democracy a significant majority is in favour of tidying things up.’

And he finishes:

‘Sadly, the motion before our nation’s Parliament lacks any idea of respect at all. The plea that nobody should be forced to even approve of same sex relationships, never mind marriage, is just plain odd. That argument has already been lost, and a long time ago. Those who disapprove have, and will continue to have, a right to disapprove, if they are so minded. I’ve some pretty disapproving thoughts on such an attitude myself, but so what, trading hurt will get us nowhere. I respect faith and I respect free speech. But I don’t respect, and I won’t tolerate, discrimination and neither does our society. Our society has collectively decided that we are an egalitarian and respectful bunch, that everyone is equal before our democratically agreed law and that everyone will respect the legal rights of others.

What is in the small, mean, angry heads of bigots is a matter for them. I never asked for their approval, but I demand equality. And as a proud nationalist I have my own faith. I have faith in the good sense of the people of our big-hearted Scotland to calmly and rationally reject irrational paranoia and come to a just conclusion.’

As we face up to the Christian right here in Ireland in the form of at least two of our would-be presidential candidates, it is a timely reminder that we are not the only Gaelic nation to be faced with the archaic attitudes that would bind church and state together.

For more on the current SNP troubles I recommend this detailed post by the Lalland’s Peat Worrier and a follow-up by the Burdz Eye View. Just as interesting is the many comments displaying the wide range of attitudes amongst our sea-divided Gaelic kin.


1 comment on “The SNP – Distinctly Off-Message For Once

  1. Pat Barr

    Is this political spat within the SNP a row over nomenclature i.e. what people may or should call a same-sex union? Or is it a row about the definition of marriage? Is someone who offers the ‘wrong’ definition of marriage then logically a ‘bigot’, or have they simply come to an existential conclusion different from their detractors?


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