IT was a poignant debate in Westminster last week, one of the few debates I’ve been in that had a bit of content and humanity to it. It was to mark the end of Pride Month, the month of June being an opportunity for LGBT organisations worldwide to organise events and show solidarity with each other domestically and abroad.

Where we have made a lot of progress especially in Scotland and the UK, we’ve a long way to go.

I was the first SNP politician to come out, in 2006, I joked in the debate that I wasn’t the first gay SNP politician but I was the first to make a song and dance about it!

The party has a proud record on equalities, especially under Nicola Sturgeon and I’m proud of that record. SNP work has delivered the most progressive and extensive equal marriage legislation, a pardon for historical “homosexual offences”, equal civil partnerships, opened up adoption and IVF for same-sex couples, reformed blood donation rules, established a Working Group on Non-Binary Equality and made Scotland the first country in the UK to approve the provision of Pre-Exposure Prophylactic (medicine taken to prevent HIV) by the NHS.

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But progress is not permanent, and rights can be reversed. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance and we have seen plenty of examples worldwide, and some closer to home, where ambitious politicians calculate that there are votes in victimising minorities and whipping up fear and prejudice.

Sixty-nine countries worldwide criminalise being gay to one extent or another, with eight of them having the death penalty for same-sex activity. The UK’s role in this is significant. Many of the laws date from colonial times but have been kept as it suits domestic politicians in now independent states to keep them. This has been partially acknowledged and there will be a global LGBT conference in July 2022 to tackle inequality around the world and urge countries to take action, with an emphasis on Commonwealth countries.

The National: Prime Minister Viktor Orban

Closer to home, we saw just this week a mob attack on the offices of Tbilisi Pride in Georgia, where there has been an appalling campaign of victimisation. In Viktor Orban's (above) Hungary the outright obnoxious “Anti-Paedophilia Act” attempts to conflate paedophilia with the LGBT community and erase LGBT people from the public discourse by banning essential school programs that help young people get information and support. And that comes after banning gender studies at universities in 2018 and abolishing gender recognition in 2020.

The EU has started to go through the gears on Hungary, in a process that could end in the nation being expelled fro the EU which would be a tragic failure of statecraft. But if you join a club that has rules you can’t then observe some but not others, and here is where the evidence of many Central and Eastern European countries being new democracies is stark.

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We also saw the current Prime Minister of Slovenia rail against the EU “imposing foreign values on Central and Eastern Europe” which precisely misses the point – equality is integral to EU values, if you join the club you need to uphold your obligations, you’re free to leave.

But the minority being most oppressed lately in the most reprehensible way is the trans community. I took my chance in the debate to express my total solidarity with them. Some of the most vulnerable people I have come across are trans and the debate over trans equality, especially online, is an ugly and shrill one which we need to calm down.

I also expressed my solidarity with women and reaffirmed, as I always have done in 16 years of elected politics, to protect and promote the rights of women. I don’t see that the two are in conflict. I’m a man to be sure, so I’ve spent a lot of time listening to women on this subject and I truly see nothing in trans equality that undermines the rights of women. There has been some appalling scaremongering from some about the supposed danger to the rights of women. I would never be part of anything which would erase or diminish the rights of women and neither would the SNP.

I hope our MSPs move soon on our long-standing commitment to bringing trans laws up to date and trust in their good sense and humanity to ensure that a legislative framework that protects everyone will be found.

What the trans community and women do have in common is an entirely justified fear of abusive men – and there are plenty of them out there, especially online. False friends and fakes, using this emotive issue to spit bile and poison into the debate, fanning fear and inflaming misunderstanding and mistrust as well as spreading disinformation.

I have trust that Scotland is bigger than them, and bigger than this ugly debate. The recent election proves that for me with pro-equality parties massively winning the poll. Scotland is big-hearted enough and smart enough to come up with a legal framework that protects and respects everyone. Let’s get on with it and be the example to the world we can be – and by proving we can be that example, build momentum to independence.