Interparliamentary Plenary Session: Madrid 2017

Interparliamentary plenary session: Madrid 2017

Muchas gracias, thank you for the invitation to be here from Scotland. It’s been a great pleasure for me to be here, to see so many wonderful people celebrating Pride, celebrating love, celebrating equality and diversity, and making solidarity real. 

I wanted to be here today to support Pride and support this initiative because the need for international solidarity has never been greater. 

Scotland, like Spain, has come a long way. We are the top state in Europe, after Malta, for our Equalities legislation, as ranked by ILGA Europe. Of Scotland’s five main political parties, two of them are led by lesbian women, one co-convened by a woman and a bi man, one by a straight man - I suppose we should give them something! – and one by our First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, a straight woman who presides over a gender-balanced cabinet and a government that has Equalities at its heart.

‘You cannot be what you cannot see’ but in Scotland, people are well used to out gay politicians in public life to the extent that we almost don’t remark on it. We have truly come a long way.

There’s the good news.

But I also bring a warning.

Things can go backwards. Progress is not inevitable, and it needn’t be permanent unless we are vigilant, and vocal, and support each other. The United Kingdom, with the Brexit vote to leave the European Union, has shown that.

Brexit has unleashed a wave of hate within our public life, within our streets. Hate crimes are up across the board be it xenophobia, racism, even attacks on the disabled.  Against our community, LGBTI hate crimes are up since the Brexit vote 147% in the United Kingdom.  

We cannot afford to be complacent. Things can go backwards.

Now, the whole point of Equalities is that people have  rights. Rights which are legally certain, enforceable against our government. 

The people of Scotland, of the United Kingdom, we face the prospect of our rights as European Union citizens being removed. In Scotland against our clear democratic will. 62% of Scots voted to remain within the European Union. 

Now, that’s our fight, that’s our struggle, that’s our argument. But don’t forget us. We count on your solidarity. My point on raising it here today is this: Learn from our experience. Progress is not ‘safe.’

Populists and hatemongers are feeling confident across the world, many in elected office. We must mobilise. This is not a luxury project – this is a necessity for our community.

So I entirely support the proposals today, you can count on my active support. As a template, a constructive suggestion, I suggest the LGBTI intergroup of the European Parliament. That brings together across MEPs from 28 different states in a structured cooperation where we can support each other in our own struggles and also speak with one voice in the wider world.

Because, friends, there are forces who are mobilising against us, and want to cut not just our rights but the rights of other people too. We need to make solidarity real – across borders but also across communities.

So count me in. We’ve a job to do. Love beats hate, eventually. But it only will if we’re actually active and support each other and mobilise, and events like this are so important.

So count Scotland in. We won’t let you down. Muchas gracias.