NICOLA Sturgeon has said she stands “full-square” behind transgender people as the Scottish Greens called for improvement to healthcare for the community. 

The First Minister expressed her support for trans people “in the discrimination and stigma and prejudice they face” during FMQs this afternoon.

Speaking to the chamber in Holyrood, the First Minister admitted there were improvements to be made to waiting times for gender identity services.

Currently, there are four gender identity clinics in Scotland where patients can face up to a two-and-a-half year wait for an appointment.

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The question was posed by Scottish Greens MSP Gillian Mackay, the party's health spokesperson, on what the Government is doing to improve trans and LGBT+ healthcare.

The First Minister said: “We are committed to advancing equality for LGBQTI people, everyone should be able to access the healthcare they need when they need it as part of that overall commitment to equality. 

“As part of the remobilisation of the NHS we are considering the impact of the pandemic on sexual health services and how we improve these further, and that includes for example widening access to PREP. 

“We are also working with NHS Scotland to improve gender identity services including reducing waiting times, which I think everybody recognises are far too long, and that causes additional trauma and anxiety, and we will shortly be writing to the national gender identity clinical network for Scotland to ask them to review and update the gender reassignment protocol.”

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Mackay followed up with a second question and wished everyone a happy Pride, pointing out that the celebration started as a protest.

She continued: “We have witnessed attacks on organisations such as Stonewall in recent weeks with some particularly wild and untrue allegations. It shows just how far we have to go to make Scotland a truly equal society.  Attacks like these cause great emotional pain and have to stop.

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“Trans people are our friends, colleagues and family and they deserve to be able to express their identity in peace.

“Will the First Minister stand with me to support trans people and agree that the current situation many trans people face when trying to access gender identity services is unacceptable, including typical waiting times of years for a first appointment, and will she give a clear commitment today that the Scottish Government will take the steps needed, including through providing funding and redesigning these services, to make sure a person-centred, multi-disciplinary approach is used going forward in providing healthcare for trans people in Scotland?”

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The First Minister said that she did agree in “general terms” and added: “I absolutely stand here full-square behind trans people in the discrimination and stigma and prejudice they face, and the ongoing battle for equality for which they have as much an entitlement as anyone else in our society. 

“There are many things we’ve got to do, not least reducing waiting times for gender identity services and I’ve already commented on that, but I think all of us have to also recognise that progress unfortunately in our society is rarely all one way.”

Sturgeon said that we have to “protect and continue to win and re-win” progress made on equality. 

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She said: “We don’t have to look too far today, whether it’s on LGBTI issues or around sexism and misogyny or racism to see that there are many forces wanting to take us backwards, and I think all of us have a duty to stand up for equality, however difficult that may be on occasion, to make sure our progress as a country continues to be in the forward direction and that Scotland is a place where everybody feels valued and respected and able to be who they are. 

“That’s the country I want to not just lead, but the country I want to live in as a citizen and I think we’ve all got work to do to make sure it is reality and not just rhetoric.”