LONDON — The Scottish National Party’s deputy leader at Westminster has taken a swipe at Kate Forbes’ position on LGBTQ+ conversion therapy, as Forbes’ views face close scrutiny in her bid for the country’s top political office.
Forbes has said that coercive conversion therapy — where groups forcibly attempt to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity — is “abhorrent” and that she would back efforts to ban such practices.
However, she has not committed to banning conversion therapy where the individual involved voluntarily consents — something pro-ban campaign groups say is never possible.
Pressed on the issue multiple times by Sky News in a televised SNP leadership debate on Monday, Forbes said that if a gay person wanted to have conversion therapy, “that is their choice,” and would not say she would introduce a complete conversion therapy ban.
In an interview with POLITICO, SNP Westminster deputy leader Mhairi Black — a rising star of the party who is also gay — said Forbes’ position “misses the point.”
“Conversion therapy, you can never really consent to it,” Black said. “[What Forbes said] sort of misses the whole point of banning conversion therapy in the first place.”
She added: “I want to see all sorts of conversion therapy banned — a ban means a complete ban for me.”
End Conversion Therapy Scotland, a group campaigning for a complete ban, has also expressed concern over Forbes’ comments. In a letter Wednesday, the group said it had “no faith” Forbes would take the action needed to tackle the “evil practice.”
The Scottish government is due to introduce legislation on the issue by the end of this year.
Black, who is backing rival candidate Humza Yousaf, is the latest senior SNP figure to criticize Forbes for her views on social issues as a devout member of the socially conservative Free Church of Scotland. Forbes has said that she would have voted against legalizing same-sex marriage, would never have an abortion, and that she thinks it’s wrong to have sex outside of marriage.
Amid a backlash from some LGBTQ+ members and SNP lawmakers, the leadership contender has said her faith has not and would not interfere with how she legislates.
Though she hasn’t endorsed a candidate, the departing First Minister Nicola Sturgeon raised eyebrows when she pointedly described Scotland as a “socially progressive country” in the wake of Forbes’ entrance into the contest.
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Black — who has previously described how Forbes’ comments on gay marriage left her “incredibly hurt” — admitted she’d be “concerned” if the finance secretary won the contest and became Scottish first minister.
“The party’s position just now on conversion therapy is one which is based in fact and also compassion, so [I’d be] concerned in the same sense that I know there are people out there who don’t necessarily agree with, for example, gay marriage,” Black said.
She added: “Yes that concerns me, obviously. But I’m not losing any sleep over it, so to speak — as long as I can still get married.”
Kate Forbes’ team have yet to respond to a request for comment.