PATRICK Harvie has said there is “no such thing as non-coercive conversion practices” following comments made by SNP leadership candidate Kate Forbes.

On Monday night, Sky News political editor Beth Rigby hosted a debate with the hopefuls bidding to replace Nicola Sturgeon as Scotland’s next first minister.

While the trio were probed on a wealth of issues, including their “price” for cooperating with a Labour government in Westminster, some of Forbes's comments on conversion practices prompted a backlash.

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Conversion practices, sometimes referred to as “therapy”, is any intervention which seeks to change a person's gender identity or sexual orientation.

According to Stonewall, this can take various forms, from counselling sessions, corrective rape, being prayed over as a form of “healing” and exorcisms.

While Forbes has said conversion therapy is “abhorrent”, she stopped short of saying she would ban the process entirely during the Sky News debate.

Forbes said: “My commitment to you is to look carefully at (banning voluntary conversion therapy).

“What I’m not going to do, because I don’t think any government has done that yet, is to precede the normal process of legislation.”

The Finance Secretary added: “I think people should be allowed to live freely as they choose and I don’t think there should be conversion therapy in existence in Scotland.”

Asked if a gay man should be allowed to seek conversion therapy to change his sexuality, Forbes said: “Well, it’s his choice, but I do not think we should allow conversion therapy.”

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She added: “My position on this is that people should be allowed to live as they choose in a free, tolerant society, and I think the conversion therapy bill should reflect that.”

On Tuesday, Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie released a statement, which while it did not name Forbes, appeared to be directed at the comments she had made.

He said: “Anti-LGBTQ+ conversion practices are abhorrent and abusive by nature. There is no such thing as a non-coercive conversion practice and never can be.

“Anyone who argues that people should be able to consent to this form of abuse is clearly failing to understand the issue.

The National: Banning conversion practices is a key tenet of the Bute House agreementBanning conversion practices is a key tenet of the Bute House agreement (Image: PA)

“Nobody should be told that they are not good enough or that they should be ashamed of who they are.”

Harvie pointed out that the Bute House agreement between the Scottish Greens and Scottish Government committed to a “watertight ban” on all conversion practices.

He added: “The Bute House Agreement between the Scottish Greens and the Scottish Government committed to a watertight ban on all conversion practices. That is what we believe in and is the commitment we would seek from any new First Minister.

“Anything less than a full and unequivocal ban would go against that Agreement, which was overwhelmingly supported by the membership of both parties.” 

Marco Biagi, SNP councillor in Edinburgh, said that anyone who had trouble accepting themselves would have at some point “felt this idea’s insidious temptation”.

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He added: "But it is abuse, plain and simple. It's preying on the vulnerable. It shouldn't be acceptable in today's age and leaders must know that.

"Conversion 'therapy' isn't a person being locked in a room and told they're straight while they rattle the door and try to escape. It's darker than that.

"It's an authority figure persuading you that this is what you want. A 'consent' exemption therefore means no ban at all."

We previously told how the Scottish Government’s expert advisory group on ending conversion practices backed a complete ban and ruled out any exemptions for religious groups.

Campaigners say that the practices cause a severe impact on mental health and that 7% of LGB people, 13% of trans people and 10% of asexual people had been subjected to or offered such conversion practices in the UK.

The report also rejected the argument that a conversion therapy ban would impact freedom of religion or freedom of expression.

Religious organisations are already poised to legally challenge any forthcoming legislation.

The Christian Institute said in January that they are already preparing the ground for legal action, claiming that it would criminalise the “mainstream pastoral work of churches, mosques and synagogues and temples”, as well as parents.