6th Report 2000
Stage 1 Report on
the Ethical Standards in Public Life etc. (Scotland) Bill
Ethical Standards in Public Life, etc (Scotland) Bill
The following are the comments of the Baptist Union of Scotland in relation to the above Bill.
1 New Ethical Framework
In general we welcome the proposals for a new ethical framework for local government and in particular we agree that this should also cover the other public bodies listed in Schedule 2.
We support the idea of a statement of general principles, like the example in Annexe C. It is important that principles such as Duty, Selflessness, Integrity, Propriety, Objectivity, Openness, Confidentiality, and Honesty are emphasised rather than just a detailed list of what is and what is not allowed.
However, we would question why it is considered that Members of the Scottish Parliament do not need to be subject to this ethical framework.
We welcome the much more open climate of discussion of sexual matters today, allowing us to be open and frank in speaking of what were until fairly recently considered by many to be taboo subjects. This openness is very important in the case of homosexuality. There are certainly young people growing up wondering about homosexual leanings and they need to be able to talk about these feelings openly.
We deplore bullying wherever directed and also deplore prejudice or discrimination against people of homosexual orientation. However, we are doubtful whether the removal of Section 28 will directly affect either of these issues. We understand this clause was introduced to stop certain local authorities overtly promoting homosexual practice. Properly understood it in no way inhibits the giving of appropriate information about homosexuality to young people nor the active protection of all children who might be bullied. It does not limit effective responsible teaching and it has at least been partially successful in dealing with parents’ concerns about a particular school or teacher promoting a homosexual lifestyle. Its repeal would remove an important restraint.
We do however recognise that some of the wording of Section 28 appears to be deliberately provocative and could well be removed, eg "homosexuality as pretended family relationship". Also the specific allowance in sub-section(2) of action "for the purpose of treating or preventing the spread of disease" is unnecessarily restrictive. Therefore, while opposing the total repeal of Section 28, we would be open to an amendment to introduce more appropriate wording.
We strongly support the individual’s right to choose his or her own lifestyle. However, we also seek the protection of our children in an increasingly sexualised culture and call upon the Executive to give heed to our concerns which we believe are reflected widely in the community.
William G Slack
The Catholic Church’s Response to Standards in Public Life
We commend the Executive in its endeavour to advance ethical standards in public life and also in its commitment, stated in the consultation document, to tackling social exclusion. We are concerned, however, that Section 2A of the Local Government Act 1986 is to be repealed as a sign of this commitment. We do not believe that the section has had a deleterious effect on the social standing of individuals who are homosexual, the prominence given to such a small minority in television, theatre and the Arts etc. would suggest that homosexual individuals do not disproportionately suffer social exclusion at the hands of heterosexuals. Section 2A however does offer minimal protection for young people against the promotion of a homosexual lifestyle.
In examining the case for repealing Section 2A, the consultation document produced by the Executive does not seem to deal accurately with the existing legislation nor the likely impact of its repeal. The ‘most convincing’ argument presented in favour of repeal by the Executive is that it could prevent homophobic bullying in Scottish schools. This point simply ignores the reality of the present legislation which in no way hinders the ability of any school teacher to deal with cases of bullying. Indeed the wisdom of any teacher who permits bullying to continue while citing Section 2A as an adequate reason must be called into question.A Scottish Office circular issued on 20th May 1988 could not be more explicit in explaining that Section 2A prohibits only the promotion of homosexuality and that issues related to counselling, health education and objective discussion of homosexuality etc. are in no way affected. This circular in fact adequately responds to all the claims on which the Executive has based its complete argument in favour of repeal. The cases stated for the need of repeal in regard to Education, Bullying and Voluntary Groups on p22 of the consultation document are therefore based on an erroneous understanding of the current legislation.
If Section 2A only prohibits the promotion of homosexuality, it must therefore be clear that the result of repeal can only be to open the door to promotion. The existence of educational packs which promote homosexuality as equivalent to heterosexuality as well as the projects currently existing which flout Section 2A, indicates that some schools will expose school pupils to promotional material when the current prohibition is lifted.
It should also be noted that many groups who advance the causes of homosexual rights are committed to promoting homosexuality as equivalent to heterosexuality. The potential to draw young people, who may be confused about their sexual feelings, into homosexual experimentation is obvious. Such confused individuals if presented by equally valid potential sexual lifestyles will consequently be more prone to homosexuality than would be the case if heterosexuality were promoted as a preferred lifestyle. The fact that such groups insist that homosexuality cannot be influenced has to be considered against the reality that any behaviour can be learned and exposure to homosexuality increases the likelihood of participating in homosexual activity. For example, men who have attended boarding schools are 3 times more likely to have a homosexual experience.
The brute facts regarding the dangers to health of a homosexual lifestyle, such as a, increased likelihood of liver disease, rectal cancer, bowel infections and of course AIDS, as well as a decrease in life expectancy of 25 years, should at least be a factor in assessing the dangers of influencing anyone towards such a lifestyle. The need to protect our young people must be paramount.
The most recent proposals by the First Minister advance the debate considerably. We appreciate that the First Minister has attempted to allay the widespread concerns. The proposed replacement clause announced by Donald Dewar was undoubtedly a sincere and well-intended attempt to find common ground among the parties involved in the ongoing debate. Indeed that clause has much to commend it, however it builds upon a principle which is incompatible with the position that the Catholic Church must take. In declaring that the term ‘stable family’ is inclusive and that it does not give any recognition to the pre-eminence of marriage, we see the effect of the replacement clause as actually worse than the straight repeal of clause 2a. It is appropriate to recall the words of Henry McLeish: "The Government’s view is that two parents offer the best prospects for their children and that stability is most easily found within marriage." These words are simply a recognition of reality and do not represent the stigmatisation of those who do not find themselves in such a married family environment. The present state of the Executive’s proposals therefore runs contrary to the stated position of the Labour Government. At no time in the lead up to the Scottish Parliamentary elections has it been indicated that this position would be so fundamentally undermined. The proposed changes therefore present us with the prospect of local authorities being not only able but perhaps obliged to promote the equivalence of homosexual relationships to heterosexual marriage. As stated above such a position will cause confusion, it will have a direct impact on society's understanding of the nature and rights of the family and put them in jeopardy.
We re-iterate that the present legislation acts as safeguard in protecting young people from the promotion of homosexuality, this safeguard has been effective in protecting school pupils although it seems to be inadequate in preventing some councils from funding youth projects which do promote homosexuality. Further promotion seems inevitable in light of the Executives refusal to recognise marriage as the natural stable family.
Ethical Standards in Public Life Bill - A Christian Consensus ?
lt is profoundly depressing that the Churches seem so divided, particularly on the repeal of Clause 2A, and I resist being a party to either of the two groups.
Starting from the common ground, which is surely the positive understanding that humen sexuality is ideally expressed in the context of the stable relationship of marriage and the family, (and which does not imply any personal judgement on those in other forms of relationship, nor any denial of the basic human rights of all people, whatever their orientations), can we not hope to present a common view which is both ethical and realistic ?
Those who oppose repeal must surely recognise that Clause 2A is at best very clumsy and rather ineffective way of ensuring that positive message - especially in the light of changes in the whole education system and the role of Councils.
On the other hand, those who support repeal must recognlse the need for the negative prohibition to be replaced by a much stronger and value-based positive obligation.
Is there common ground in bringing Church influence to bear in a united way, on ensuring that we get a clear statutory obligation on Councils and Schools to present and uphold tbe positive and proven values of family life and stable marriage, as the ideal context for a healthy soclety and children’s’ development ?
My own proposal would be to suggest that this might be achieved by a fairly small amendment to the new Clause in the Bill recently announced by the First Minister.
It reads (suggested alterations in italics);
"1, It is the duty of a council, in the performance of those its functions which relate principally to children -
(a) to present and uphold the proven value of stable family life in a child’s development, and as the foundation of a healthy society.
(b) to ensure that the content of instruction provided …………………… .
(The rest of the Clause would be unchanged)
The Proposed Repeal of Section
2A of the Local Government Act 1986
On 24th February Donald Dewar announced to the Scottish Parliament that, following public pressure, a new clause is to be placed into the Standards in Public Life Bill. This clause will apply to local authorities and cover all the services provided by local authorities that relate to children. Material to be used in schools will have to be appropriate to the age, understanding and stage of development of the child. The clause will require local authorities to encourage "stable family life" in all its services relating to children. Mr Dewar reported that "stable family life" is an inclusive term, which includes marriage, and that the Scottish Executive does not wish to be judgmental in its interpretation of this phrase. Mr Dewar said that there would be continuing debate on the issue in the committees and chamber of the Parliament and in the country.
The replacement of Section 2A by another clause applying to local authorities was one of the key demands of the church representatives at the meeting with Ministers on 11th February. A key concern that was expressed was over where the Executive is taking Scotland’s culture. In particular, there was deep concern over the presentation in public policy of homosexual relationships as morally equivalent to traditional marriage.
It is clear that the new clause allows for a diverse definition of "stable family life". When questioned on the definition of "stable family life", Donald Dewar said explicitly that the range of lifestyles present in Scotland needs to be recognised.
This clause does not address the basic concern of CARE for Scotland that the Executive and Parliament wish to present homosexual relationships as morally equivalent to marriage. Moreover, a plural definition of the family will also undermine attempts to instil in heterosexual children a commitment to marriage.
Whilst the Executive’s recognition of the concerns of parents and its acceptance of the need for a new clause is welcome, this clause is far from sufficient. Even if backed up by guidance that encourages the promotion of marriage, it is clear that the concerns over the presentation of homosexual relationships as morally equivalent to marriage have not been addressed.
CARE for Scotland made a number of points in our response to the Executive’s consultation on Ethical Standards in Public Life. These are as follows:
There is concern over the straight repeal of Section 2A. Without giving parents a formal right of withdrawal, the straight repeal of Section 2A may breech of the European Convention of Human Rights. In particular, Article 2 of the Convention states:
No person shall be denied the right to education. In the exercise of any functions which it assumes in relation to education and to teaching, the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions.
Ann Smith QC has argued that if a right of withdrawal is not enshrined in law there is a strong likelihood of litigation against schools and local authorities. It would be unfortunate if schools and local authorities were to face court cases owing to a failure of the Scottish Parliament to take the concerns of parents on board. CARE for Scotland suggests that the Standards in Scotland’s Schools etc. Bill should be amended to give parents a formal role in relation to education relating to sex and sexuality and a formal right of withdrawal in this area.
A further measure that could be considered is to reform the nature and roles of school boards. This would also require an amendment to the Standards in Scotland’s Schools etc. Bill. Three specific ways in which the school boards might be reformed would be:
Such changes in the remit of school boards would require additional training of school board members. Measures might also be introduced to encourage professional people with the relevant skills to play a greater role in school boards.
CARE for Scotland
1 Introduction to CARE
1.1 CARE (Christian Action Research and Education) is an organisation concerned to see national, European law and public policy on the value of marriage and the family, reflect Christian ethical principles. CARE is also involved in practical caring initiatives, the organisation of conferences and seminars, and publication of educational and research materials. Over 100,000 Christians throughout the UK regularly receive information and support CARE’s work.
1.2 CARE’s Public Policy Department acts as a think tank on ethical issues related to the family, education and medical ethics. It is a point of reference and information on these issues for Christian supporters across the church denominations in the UK. We keep interested supporters informed about developments in family policy and research through our regular publications. We also brief MPs, Peers and MEPs as relevant matters are considered in Westminster and Brussels.
1.3 CARE for Education, a department of CARE, has produced a number of educational resources for primary and secondary school. Most notable of these is Make Love Last, a sex education video now purchased by 45% of the UK’s secondary schools. CARE for Education have also produced a CD-ROM and video called Growing Up Together for primary school personal and social education as well as producing guidelines to help teachers in drawing up drugs and sex education policies.
1.4 CARE for Scotland, is a department of CARE and as well as providing information and raising issues amongst it’s supporters in Scotland, it monitors the work of the Scottish Parliament and briefs MSP’s on issues of concern. An Advisory Group of Scottish educators provides expert advice to CARE for Scotland in relation to Scottish education. CARE for Scotland has approximately 3,500 supporters drawn from all the main churches in Scotland.
CARE for Scotland welcomes the opportunity to comment on the Ethical Standards in Public Life etc (Scotland) Bill. We recognise the admirable intention of the Scottish Executive to improve ethical standards in Scottish public bodies. However, CARE for Scotland notes with concern that the Executive plans to repeal Section 2A of the Local Government Act 1986. We limit our comments on the Bill to this issue and the contents of chapter 4 of the consultation document Standards in Public Life.
CARE for Scotland is particularly concerned by the proposed repeal of Section 2A (commonly known as Section 28 or Clause 28) of the Local Government Act 1986. CARE for Scotland is concerned that the repeal of Section 2A could lead to explicit material being available in schools encouraging children to experiment with homosexual relationships.
CARE for Scotland urges the Scottish Executive to reconsider its proposals and not to repeal Section 2A. Regardless of whether Section 2A is repealed, we request that the Executive put in place a number of safeguards in order to protect children from undue pressure to engage in sexual activity and to recognise the rights of parents to determine how their children should be educated.
CARE has consistently argued for the protection of children in relation to law and policy on matters dealing with sex education and sexuality. CARE has produced sex education resources that have been purchased by 45% of secondary schools and a significant number of primary schools. CARE for Scotland believes that children do need to know ‘the facts of life’, but information needs to be age sensitive, and given with the full support of parents.
CARE for Scotland understands that Section 2A of the Local Government Act 1986 was introduced as a response to the activities of certain London councils during the 1980s. These councils were using public funds to produce literature, which promoted homosexual relationships. CARE for Scotland considers that if it had not been for this abuse of public funds Section 2A would not have been necessary.
CARE for Scotland holds to the orthodox Christian view that God created the human race and ordained heterosexual marriage as the basic unit of human society. We understand that heterosexual marriage is part of God’s natural revelation of His own character and of His purpose of relating to His creation. We accept the Biblical teaching that marriage between a man and a woman is reflective of the relationship between Christ and the Church.
CARE for Scotland considers that sex is properly enjoyed within the context of a marriage relationship between a man and a woman. CARE for Scotland recognises that the reasons for homosexuality and bi-sexuality are varied and complex. We distinguish between homosexuality and homosexual practice. We consider that homosexual practice does not equate with heterosexual intercourse. We commend and support homosexual people who are living celibate lives in order to obey and honour God. We also commend and support bi-sexual people who are married, but who refrain from homosexual practice out of respect for God and their marriage commitment.
CARE for Scotland notes the Scottish Executive’s commitment to tackling the problem of social exclusion. We note also the Executive’s statement identification of the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transsexual communities as a group within society who are socially excluded.
CARE for Scotland believes there to be many serious causes of social exclusion. These include homelessness, poverty, poor education, family breakdown, teenage pregnancy and substance abuse. We do not consider that sexuality is comparable to these other causes of social exclusion. Moreover, we note that the disposable income of the gay community is generally higher than the disposable income of the heterosexual community. Their representation in the media and at all levels of government does not equate with ‘social exclusion’.
CARE for Scotland does not view the Scottish Executive’s argument to be a credible reason for the repeal of Section 2A. Moreover, we consider that if the Executive wishes to tackle the problem of social exclusion, that an appropriate place to start would be by encouraging initiatives to strengthen and support marriage and the upbringing of children within stable family units.
Section 2A of the Local Government Act 1986 says:
We understand that it is normal practice in government consultations to ensure that the current legislative position is fully and objectively reviewed, before highlighting what new legislation is required. CARE for Scotland notes that the Scottish Executive has departed from this practice in this case by failing to include Scottish Development Department guidance given to local authorities following the introduction of Section 2A.
Section 2A prohibits a local authority from intentionally promoting homosexuality, or from publishing material with the intention of promoting homosexuality. A Scottish Development Department Circular (9/1988) issued when the Section came into force explained how this would affect local authorities. "The provision will be relevant in cases where a local authority, in exercising one of its statutory functions, proposes to do something for the deliberate purpose of promoting homosexuality. Local authorities will not be prevented by this section from offering the full range of their services to homosexuals, on the same basis as to all their inhabitants. So long as they are not setting out to promote homosexuality, they may, for example, include in their public libraries books and periodicals about homosexuality or written by homosexuals, and fund theatre and other arts events which may include homosexual themes."
CARE for Scotland notes the Executive’s argument that Section 2A has:
CARE for Scotland notes that the Executive has brought forward no evidence to support the view that Section 2A has legitimised intolerance and prejudice nor that it has raised the level of homophobia. Indeed, we note that the Scottish Executive has made no attempt to define ‘homophobia’ and appears to have accepted uncritically the arguments of certain pressure groups who would define the orthodox Christian view, outlined above, as being ‘homophobic’. We find this use of the term ‘homophobia to be ill conceived as it imputes specific ‘anti gay’ attitudes to Christian people who are seeking to do nothing more than follow their own consciences and genuine religious convictions. ‘Loving your neighbour’ is not inconsistent with making distinctions between appropriate and inappropriate sexual behaviour.
We note the Executive has made no attempt to explain the ‘best practice’ that it claims has been neglected by Scottish local authorities as a result of Section 2A. We would refer the Executive to CARE’s video resource Make Love Last which encourages young people to abstain from premature sexual experiences and which has been purchased by 45% of the UK’s secondary schools. We consider balanced sex education, which includes teaching about abstinence and relationships, to be an example of best practice.
The Executive states that presently there is a "legal distinction between teaching on homosexuality, and teaching about other sensitive topics." Moreover, it is often claimed in the media and by gay rights pressure groups that Section 2A prevents teaching about homosexuality in schools. However, Scottish Development Department circular 9/1988 makes it clear that Section 2A "does not affect the activities of teachers." It goes on to say "It will not prevent the objective discussion of homosexuality in the classroom, nor the counselling of pupils concerned about their sexuality."
The first paragraph of the section on Education in Standards in Public Life, is patently incorrect. In the light of the Scottish Development Department circular, there is no difference in the way that the issues surrounding homosexuality can be taught in the classroom, as against other ‘sensitive topics’. Even without the repeal of Section 2A, there is nothing to stop schools and teachers with local authority support, from developing "programmes that deal with homosexuality using the same principles that apply …" to other sensitive topics.
The Scottish Executive is misguided if it believes that the repeal of Section 2A is needed to ensure "…rounded and comprehensive health and sex education." This laudable outcome can, and should, be achieved in every school in Scotland under the existing legislation without fear of enforcement action under Section 2A being taken against the school or local authority. The only issue that is outlawed by Section 2A is the ‘promotion of homosexuality’.
For parents who hold the orthodox Christian view of homosexual practice, the possibility of homosexual relationships being actively promoted as equivalent to heterosexual relationships to their children raises strong concerns. CARE for Scotland shares these concerns and believes that parents should be consulted about their school’s sex education.
Many parents have strong concerns that if Section 2A is repealed it will fundamentally alter the information that their children receive about relationships when they are at school. In Scotland, School Boards have an advisory role and so, unlike Governing Bodies in England and Wales, parents have no formal mechanism to determine a school’s sex education.
When Section 2A was introduced there was a significant change in the sort of literature available in schools, and we are concerned that this moderating influence will be removed if Section 2A is repealed. Moreover, it is clear that the Scottish Executive intends that there should be a change in schools if Section 2A is repealed.
CARE is concerned that there is going to be significant change of emphasis on how homosexuality will be dealt with in schools if Section 2A is repealed. We believe that there are important questions that need to be answered by the Scottish Executive. We list a number below:
The Executive stressed its concern over the problem of homophobic bullying and that this is "one of the most convincing arguments" for the repeal of Section 2A as it will "assist schools and teachers to develop robust strategies against bullying". To date no systematic and independent research has been done to justify claims that there is a significant problem of homophobic bullying in Scottish schools. Moreover, it is clear from Scottish Development Department circular 9/1988 that Section 2A does not prevent teachers dealing with bullying because a) section 2A does not directly affect teachers and b) it allows counselling of pupils concerned about their sexuality. Consequently, this "convincing argument" seems misguided.
Bullying can be a problem in all schools for children who are considered by other pupils to be too short, too fat, too intelligent etc. CARE for Scotland believes that all bullying is unacceptable. CARE for Scotland also recognises that homosexual pupils do suffer bullying. However, repeal of Section 2A will not effectively tackle this problem. Schools are already taking action to deal with bullying and CARE for Scotland believes that each school should have a comprehensive anti-bullying policy. We urge the Scottish Executive to continue encouraging each school to set out a clear policy on how to deal with all forms of bullying, regardless of its nature.
CARE for Scotland notes the Executive’s claims regarding the ability of local authorities to provide grants. However, Section 2A(2) allows local authorities to spend money on treating or preventing the spread of diseases. Scottish Development Department circular 9/1988 states:
"Thus, any activities in the counselling, health care and health education fields undertaken for the purpose of treating or preventing the spread of disease, including AIDS, will be unaffected."
In reality, grants are available for many gay groups seeking to promote health or for arts purposes. In some cases the use to which this money has been put can only be said to be loosely connected to the purposes for which it was intended.
CARE for Scotland questions whether local authorities should be encouraged to fund voluntary groups promoting a homosexual lifestyle at a time of increasingly constrained budgets. With the need to support families raising children, we urge local authorities to direct available funds to support parenting.
We note the point made by a cross section of Scottish church leaders in their recent open letter to Wendy Alexander that only 0.7% of the British population are exclusively homosexual. CARE for Scotland views that gay groups should not receive funding disproportionate to their representation in the wider community. We suggest that local authority auditors should be able to ensure grant expenditure adhere to this principle.
CARE for Scotland is concerned by the Scottish Executive’s proposal to repeal Section 2A of the Local Government Act 1986. We fear that if Section 2A is repealed that explicit material will become available in schools and that children will be encouraged to experiment with homosexual relationships and practice. CARE for Scotland is not convinced by the Executive’s arguments in support of the repeal of Section 2A. Existing guidance states that schools can address the issue of homosexuality and there is nothing to prevent teachers from dealing with bullying or counselling children on issues of sexuality. Regardless of whether Section 2A is repealed or not, we wish to see a number of safeguards in order to protect children from undue pressure to engage in sexual activity and to recognise the rights of parents to determine how their children should be educated.
*CARE for Scotland (Public
EVIDENCE ON THE ETHICAL STANDARDS
THE REPEAL OF SECTION 2A
As a Board of the Church of Scotland, the Board of Social Responsibility has the remit for moral, ethical and social issues. We also work as a professional social work agency delivering a recognised service to over 4,000 people each day, among them members of the homosexual and "gay" community.
It has caused us deep regret that as staunch supporters of a new government in Scotland, we find ourselves in direct conflict with the Executive on the issue of the repeal of Clause 28. We regret that there was no prior consultation, as would have been normal practice, over the need for a proposed repeal of this legislation. We consider that the consultation exercise was conducted hurriedly, with a lack of comprehensive information, and therefore produced a limited and flawed response. We fear that public confidence in the Parliamentary procedures has been undermined and must be rebuilt. We take no pleasure in this divisive situation.
The consultation paper relied on three reasons to justify the repeal of Section 28.
EDUCATION: The law as it stands already allows teachers to give objective information and to counsel children confused about their sexuality. We would refer the Executive to the Scottish Office circular 9/1988 dated 20th May 1988. The impact of the Clause and present guidelines has been positive in restraining the promotion of explicit homosexual material and lifestyle practices.
BULLYING: We are opposed to any form of bullying and believe every school should have a comprehensive anti-bullying policy. We do not believe that the repeal of the Section will impact at all on this issue in schools. Teachers already have powers to deal with bullying. The Executive have anecdotal evidence but no independent research on the numbers of pupils who are bullied because of their homosexuality. The Executive’s official guide on the problem "Let’s Stop Bullying" made no reference to homophobic bullying. We would welcome an independent study to reveal the extent of this problem. Until this research is available the law should remain unchanged, strengthened by specific guidelines to cover this issue.
VOLUNTARY GROUPS: Councils across Scotland are already funding Scottish Gay and Lesbian groups. There are innumerable examples of this. A recent conference for gay, bisexual and transgender people in Scotland was held on 11th December 1999. The conference was organised by Equality Network and supported by the City of Edinburgh Council. Funding was presumably given on the basis that Councils may provide services to the homosexual community, according to the Scottish Office’s own legal advice, provided homosexuality is not promoted. The only voluntary groups which Councils cannot fund or support at present are those which actively promote homosexuality. Blanket repeal of the Clause would alter this and we conclude this to be part of the Executive’s agenda in repeal.
The position of the Board of Social Responsibility on this issue has been determined by the past Deliverances and Reports of the Board on Human Sexuality and Family Matters. In reaffirming the Board’s conviction that there is no moral equivalence between heterosexual commitment in marriage and homosexual lifestyle, the Board acknowledging differences in conviction in the Church on this issues:
1. are opposed to the blanket repeal of Section 2A, being unconvinced by the Scottish Executive’s arguments for repeal;
2. welcome the strengthening of protective guidelines in regard to sex education for children; and
3. believe there needs to be primary legislation:
This position was endorsed by the Board of Social Responsibility of the Church of Scotland at its meeting of 18th February with none dissenting.
The widespread concern over the repeal of this section could be satisfied were the Executive to enact legislation replacing the present clause which would impact on the activities of local authorities. We have no desire to alter the educational system in Scotland which relies on guidelines.
Along with other representatives of the Christian and faith communities in Scotland we would wish to give oral evidence to the committee to this effect.
The Local Government Committee
Submission regarding homophobic bullying in the City of Edinburgh schools
The City of Edinburgh Education Department introduced a new Anti-bullying and Anti-racist Policy and Guidelines for Educational Establishments in September 1999. As the links between racism and bullying were being drawn in the document, there was also felt by teachers to be a need for a clearer authority position to be made on links between other aspects of discrimination and bullying.
The new policy was also written in the light of a series of expressed concerns from both primary and secondary schools that levels of homophobic bullying were on the increase. Head teachers were reporting that staff felt unable to tackle this rising form of inappropriate behaviour in the same way that they could deal with racism or sexism, as they were unsure of their legal position and were therefore nervous about discussing anything which might leave them open to litigation. Homophobic bullying was consequently being left unchallenged on many occasions.
As the Department was aware that it would not be in contravention of Section 28 for teachers to deal with homophobia and homophobic bullying, we felt it was important to build anti-homophobic work into our anti-bullying policy, thus giving staff clearer guidance and support.
The need to monitor all forms of bullying in schools has been made clear through a range of reports from HMI to solicitors and the City of Edinburgh was keen to comply with this recommendation. We have therefore established a set of procedures, which are currently out to all our establishments for a one year pilot. Following this a finalised set of procedures and a proforma for the recording of incidents will be produced. As bullying takes a number of forms, one of which is homophobic bullying, we are asking schools to record the nature of incidents and whether they have been influenced by issues of race, disability, class, sexual orientation, gender or other differences.
As with the monitoring and recording of racist incidents, which has been compulsory in our schools since 1985 in line with the Race Relations Act and more recently by the Macpherson Report, we are looking to establish the pattern of all forms of bullying in order that we can support staff in tackling these issues. We believe that homophobic bullying is a serious issue in the schools and this monitoring will enable us to back this up with hard evidence.
Repeal of Section 2A of the Ethical Standards in Public Life etc (Scotland) Bill would make the tackling of homophobic bullying in schools considerably easier. It would clarify for teachers their position in tackling this discrimination and would allow staff to deal with all such concerns in a more open, equalised and less discriminatory legal framework. It would also hopefully enable staff addressing these issues to work in a climate where homophobia is not seen to be an acceptable form of discrimination. It has taken many years of positive legislation to arrive at that position with regard to sexism and racism. We are still tackling these issues in schools despite the social and legal advances. There is little hope of bringing about a change in social attitudes towards gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people when the legal position is still operating against this.