EQUALITIES is an important policy issue, perhaps the most important. For me, my support for independence and my want for a more fair and equal society for everyone go hand in hand. There’s no point in one without the other.

The arrival of the Alba Party had me raising my eyebrows, not least because it asks people to support an entirely untested “strategy”, right when the stakes for Scotland couldn’t be higher. But the names of people who had rallied to the call also gave me reason to pause. Time and again, they were individuals who were fundamentally at odds with the direction Scotland is proudly going in protecting minority groups in our society.

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There are some who won’t thank me for this letter. There are those who feel it is better not to “go after” individuals who are pro-independence, because the cause transcends all else. I have some sympathy with that, but I also firmly believe that if you have something to say, say it. And it should go without saying that just because somebody supports independence, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be held accountable for their views on a range of issues, especially if they’re seeking election to parliament.

One of Alba’s “blogging community” supporters tweeted on Saturday, live from the party’s women’s conference, that one of their Central Scotland candidates had said of “queer theory”: “the next move is to reduce the age of consent to 10 years of age.” My heart sank reading it. It’s the murkiest, grittiest homophobia imaginable. The tweet was soon deleted after a backlash, but it still exists in the ether.

Attempting to smear LGBT people by aligning them with paedophilia is a sad old trick. It was used in the 1980s by Thatcher, and is used today by Vladimir Putin (though you’ll likely not see much mention of it on Kremlin broadcaster RT!). It’s a cynical brand of politics that seeks to cement people to a tribe by building a culture war; the same brand of politics that suggests transgender people should be feared in supermarket toilets (another special from an Alba candidate, this time in Mid-Scotland and Fife). We would scarcely expect this stuff from the Tories!

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Homophobia exists in Scotland. I know, I’ve faced it many times throughout my teenaged and adult life. Words matter. They have the power to embolden people to do terrible things to others.

More broadly, Scotland is a much more progressive and inclusive country that largely rejects and condemns hate. Whilst the neanderthal attitudes of some wannabe politicians about LGBT people might not sway the nation, there’s a trickle-down effect that can so easily make the lives of LGBT people hell – even leading to physical attack.

I’ll not be voting for Alba because to me getting an independence referendum is far too important a goal to risk with with an untested game. However, I could never vote for a candidate or a party that actively smears minority groups, resembling more a hotbed of hate than a serious political party.

Equalities will never be a finished endeavour, there will always be more we can do to make people’s lives better, and hate-filled crackpots will forever spring up to spout their garbage. It’s for the rest of us to challenge their views – politely, democratically, and at the ballot box.

Scotland is better than this, as I think the Scottish electorate is about to prove.

Lee Robb
SNP Regional Candidate, Mid Scotland and Fife