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Scottish conversion practices ban could see "subjective policing of speech"

Religious Liberty
9 January 2024
Police officers in high-viz jackets policing a demonstration

The Scottish Government’s 'conversion practices' proposals could lead to the “subjective policing of speech”, CARE for Scotland has warned.

Our policy team believes new measures, set out in a consultation today, risk being "overbroad" and "undermining human rights".

Michael Veitch, Scotland Policy Officer, commented:

“At CARE for Scotland, we recognise that abusive or coercive ‘practices’, ‘treatments’ or ‘therapies’ aimed at changing a person’s identity are wrong and a source of deep hurt to those who experience them. These things are rightly condemned, can already be reported to the police for investigation, and would already constitute a crime under existing provisions.

“The need for new legislation, and the wider impact of new laws must be carefully assessed. Senior legal professionals and others are concerned that the proposals in question risk being overbroad in their application, undermining human rights. In particular, the right to a private and family life, freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and freedom of expression.

"Scrutiny of Scotland's hate crime legislation underlined the dangers involved with laws of this kind. An ill-defined law on 'conversion practices' could lead to the subjective policing of speech about sexuality and gender, in a range of settings. Ultimately, parents, teachers, church leaders, counsellors and others could be caught up and unfairly criminalised.

"Given these concerns, and the efficacy of existing, well understood laws targeting harmful behaviour, we question the need for the proposed ban."

Public consultation

Members of the public in Scotland are being invited to submit their views on the proposals, which include:

  • A new criminal offence of 'conversion practices'
  • An aggravator for existing offences
  • New 'civil protection orders'

The consultation will run until 02 April, with legislation expected after the Scottish Government has reviewed responses.


Notes for Editors

CARE for Scotland is a social policy charity, bringing Christian insight to the policies and laws that affect our lives.

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