SO that’s settled, you might think. Those who have been expressing anxiety over a host of equalities issues over the past few weeks – from trans rights to abortion access, equal marriage to conversion therapy – can now relax. A progressive Scotland is assured by the election of Humza Yousaf, and anyone who disagrees with this approach will just have to accept the decision of the SNP members and pipe down.

Of course, there was never any real prospect of equal marriage being under threat in Scotland – the questioning of candidates about it was merely the first attempt of many to ascertain just how much influence Kate Forbes’s religion was likely to have on her approach to governing.

The National: File photo dated 17/03/23 of SNP leadership candidate Kate Forbes, who has said it is "highly, highly unlikely" she would stand again for the position if she is not elected this time round. PA Photo. Issue date: Wednesday March 22, 2023. Ms

As the campaign progressed, and Forbes bounced back from those initial damaging headlines, journalists rightly began to ask about live policy issues, and specifically those set out in the Bute House Agreement between the SNP and Scottish Greens. How might Forbes’s questionable views about equal rights for gay people impact on the pledge to outlaw conversion therapy? And given the anti-abortion signalling of a past comment about “the unborn” at a prayer breakfast, could she really be trusted to deliver buffer zones around clinics?

Yousaf naturally seized on any carefully worded answers to questions about these areas of concern. He highlighted the fact that Forbes had pledged only to “look carefully” into conversion therapy rather than to ban it. He suggested that when she said buffer zones legislation would need to be “balanced”, she might seek to permit prayer vigils.

Then, of course, there was the vexed question of the Gender Recognition Reform Bill, blocked by the UK Government with its unprecedented use of Section 35 of the Scotland Act. The Greens were unequivocal: they would not support a new SNP who did not commit to challenging the block in court. Forbes admitted she did not back the bill and once again spoke carefully, suggesting court would be an option of last resort and that she would need to take into account legal advice. Yousaf stood firm, stating that this was a point of principle – until a journalist asked him directly whether he would still go to court in the event of being advised he would lose, at which point he wobbled.

Many believed that behind Forbes’s references to being careful and balanced lay a personal squeamishness about the issues under discussion, which might well translate into a reluctance to push through any related laws.

READ MORE: Conversion therapy ban backed by all three SNP leadership candidates

She repeated the line “conversion therapy is abhorrent” several times during the Sky News leadership debate but became ruffled when presented with hypothetical scenarios by the host Beth Rigby. It was notable, however, how careful Rigby was with her question: “If a gay man – adult man – wants therapy to change his sexuality, should that be allowed or not?”

Forbes might have given a different answer had the question been about a hypothetical teenage girl, particularly given the grave concerns about sharp rises in young women – homosexual, heterosexual and bisexual – seeking medical help with gender-related distress. To be clear, the Greens are not likely to accept a conversion therapy ban that does not prohibit actual or perceived attempts to change a person’s gender identity.

I’m sure Yousaf is aware of the alarm raised by whistleblowers about what’s known as “gender-affirming care”, and the ongoing independent review of gender identity services for children and young people in England being chaired by Dr Hilary Cass (speaking below). Among many fears is that medical transition is functioning as a form of gay conversion practice for young people, with former staff at a London clinic telling of colleagues darkly joking that when their work was finished “there will be no gay children left”.

The National: Hilary Cass addresses the meeting last night

Newsnight producer Hannah Barnes has written an eye-opening book, Time to Think, about what went on at that clinic.

She argues that not only were young patients misleadingly told they were being given “time to think” in the form of puberty-blocking drugs, but that over-worked clinicians had little time to think about the implications of their practice due to constantly growing waiting lists and pressures from management.

Youngsters were assessed and processed rather than being offered anything resembling therapy, despite many presenting with very complex difficulties.

It would be most unfortunate if the Cass Review was to recommend therapeutic, counselling-based services be offered to young people presenting with gender issues in England at the same time as Scotland was moving to make such services illegal on the basis they were an attempt to “convert trans kids”. As The National has highlighted, the gender service at Glasgow’s Sandyford clinic is already facing major staff recruitment challenges. Adding fears about illegal practices into the mix will not help.

READ MORE: NHS board says 'media and political scrutiny' is worsening staffing challenges

There are lessons here, too, for politicians. Yousaf should have a copy of Time to Think in his in-tray, and he should take time to ponder the implications of how a conversion therapy ban can be drafted to avoid any unintentional harm. If he tries to rush legislation through – perhaps due to pressure from the Greens – there will be another almighty stooshie, mark my words.

We’ve seen the dangers of politicians, from every party, refusing to listen to legitimate concerns about policies they have decided are progressive and essential. The very phrase “legitimate concerns” is now considered a dog whistle by some. But there’s nothing progressive about denying compassionate, thoughtful medical care to young women, indeed people of all ages and both sexes, who are struggling to accept their bodies.

You need not be an evangelical Christian to conclude that a great deal of careful thought must be given to what exactly should be banned.