THE Alba Party has come under fire after one of its candidates accused two Scottish LGBT groups of campaigning to have the age of sexual consent reduced to 10 years old.

Margaret Lynch, who is running for Holyrood on Alba’s Central Scotland list, told the party’s women’s conference that LGBT Youth Scotland and Stonewall Scotland had received more than £1 million of funding from the Scottish Government.

She reportedly claimed the groups’ “next move is to reduce the age of consent to 10 years old”.

Stonewall Scotland and other groups have denied the accusations, saying they are “dangerous”, “irresponsible”, and “categorically untrue”. They say Lynch’s claims are based on an “obtuse interpretation” of their stated goals.

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When asked about their candidate’s speech, an Alba spokesperson said it was not for them to “defend concerns that women have raised based on fact”.

The party spokesperson cited a “Feminist Declaration” released in March 2020 by more than 200 international human rights organisations.

These organisations include the International Women's Health Coalition (IWHC), on whose website the document is hosted, and the International Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA World).

The National: A map on ILGA World's website showing the global locations of its membersA map on ILGA World's website showing the global locations of its members

ILGA World has 1614 member associations in countries all over the world.

In the UK, these members include the Universities and College Union, Unite the Union, UNISON, London Councils, the British Council, and the UK Government’s Department for International Development, which was absorbed into the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) in September 2020, six months after the declaration was published.

Many LGBT groups across the UK are also listed as members of ILGA World, including the Equality Network, Stonewall Scotland, and LGBT Youth Scotland.

These final two groups’ affiliation with ILGA World has been cited as evidence that they are campaigning to have the age of consent reduced to 10 years old, based on certain paragraphs in the 2020 Feminist Declaration.

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The declaration aimed to “address the gaps” in the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) and advocate “for accountability in policy and programs meant to promote, protect, and fulfill human rights for all”.

 - Paragraph 14a of the declaration reads: “Eliminate all laws and policies that punish or criminalize same-sex intimacy, gender affirmation, abortion, HIV transmission non-disclosure and exposure, or that limit the exercise of bodily autonomy, including laws limiting legal capacity of adolescents, people with disabilities or other groups to provide consent to sex or sexual and reproductive health services or laws authorizing non-consensual abortion, sterilization, or contraceptive use.”

 - And paragraph 14g: “End the criminalization and stigmatization of adolescents’ sexuality, and ensure and promote a positive approach to young people's and adolescents’ sexuality that enables, recognizes, and respects their agency to make informed and independent decisions on matters concerning their bodily autonomy, pleasure and fundamental freedoms.”

Criticism of the above passages has focused on the term “adolescent”, which has been taken to mean anyone between the ages of 10 and 19, the World Health Organisation’s definition.

The Alba Party quoted the above paragraphs as evidence that groups under ILGA World’s umbrella were “currently campaigning” to reduce the age of consent to 10.

The National:

All for Unity Holyrood candidate George Galloway (above) also called on the Scottish Government to make an “emergency statement” addressing the claims that they have “lavishly funded an organisation which is part of an alliance campaigning to reduce the age of consent to 10”.

ILGA World called this a “false story” and an “obtuse interpretation” and echoed Stonewall Scotland in saying the “spurious claims are dangerous and irresponsible”.

An Alba spokesperson said that Stonewall Scotland and LGBT Youth Scotland “have both signed up to this demand, and both have received substantial amounts of Government funding”.

They went on: “These are reputable organisations that make a positive impact on the lives of many in Scotland. If the organisations do not support what they have signed up to it is for them to say or provide clarification, it is not for women that attended our women’s conference to defend concerns that women have raised based on fact.”

An ILGA spokesperson said: “ILGA World is appalled that false stories are circulating attempting to imply that ILGA World is advocating to lower or eliminate the age of consent through an obtuse interpretation of a paragraph in a group statement made in 2020.

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“ILGA World categorically, and in no uncertain terms, does not advocate paedophilia in any way, shape or form, and never has. Our position on this is clear and a matter of public record. These spurious claims are dangerous and irresponsible, and we urge those making or sharing them, to stop."

They added that ILGA World "condemns all forms of abuse (including sexual abuse), coercion, and exploitation of children and young people" and that they take "strict measures" to ensure that their member associations abide by the same values.

Stonewall Scotland issued a statement on Twitter saying the Alba candidates claims were "categorically untrue".

Later, Nancy Kelley, CEO of Stonewall, and Colin Macfarlane, director of Stonewall Scotland and Northern Ireland, added: "We are appalled by the baseless and offensive accusations made by Alba parliamentary candidate Margaret Lynch.

"What she said was not only untrue, but it was also a wilful, bad faith interpretation made for the sole purpose of trying to smear LGBT+ organisations."

They accuse Lynch of "repeating deeply harmful myths about LGBT+ people as paedophiles and sexual predators" and call on her to issue a full apology and retract her previous statement. 

LGBT Youth Scotland chief executive Dr Mhairi Crawford called Lynch's claims "vicious lies" and said they are "a wilful misinterpretation and bad faith reading of the [feminist declaration] that serves only to attack the LGBT community".

Crawford went on: "We are deeply concerned that these words serve to inflame hatred towards lesbian, gay, bi and trans young people, many of whom face prejudice, discrimination and bullying every day. Today we’re sending our solidarity to them, our colleagues at Stonewall Scotland, ILGA World, our staff and volunteers and the many others affected by this attack."

She also joined Stonewall is calling for a full retraction and apology from those involved.

An FCDO official told The National that the UK Government would not be commenting as the logic used to tie them and other groups to a campaign to reduce the age of consent to 10 was “tenuous”, a word Crawford also used to decribe her organisation's inclusion.

The IWHC, All for Unity, and various other groups under the ILGA umbrella have been contacted for comment.