As Scotland prepares to vote on whether they should separate from the United Kingdom, the issue remains polarizing—but if it were solely up to the LGBT community, it looks like the answer would be yes.
According to an opinion poll by the BBC, 47 percent of Scotland’s general population say they are against the change, and 46 percent are for it. With 7 percent undecided, that leaves the vote much too close to call.
In contrast, a poll by Pink News showed that among the 2,163 Scottish readers who participated, only 44 percent said they intended to vote no on Scottish independence, while 54 percent plan to vote yes. Only 2 percent remained undecided.
Activists on both sides of the issue have made claims regarding which decision would benefit the LGBT community most.
In an opinion piece for Better Together, LGBT activist Darren Young wrote, “the UK has been at the forefront of tackling injustices. Repeal of Section 28, decriminalisation of same-sex sexual activity, civil partnerships, equal marriage, gender recognition act, anti-discrimination legislation, all of these have been enacted by the UK and Scottish Parliament. To tackle the issues and problems that people face every day we need to tackle and change the attitudes and behaviours that promote homophobia, sexism, xenophobia, transphobia, racism and so on. We do that through education, working together across the UK and protecting those communities.
“By voting for independence, we walk away from the LGBT community in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. We walk away from the successes that have been achieved by all for all. I love Scotland. I love the UK. I’m proud to have campaigned for LGBT equality for the whole of the UK. That’s why, on September the 18th, I’ll [be]voting no. Standing stronger together for equality across the United Kingdom.”
On the other side of the debate, some pro-independence activists are fighting for LGBT rights and protections to be written into Scotland’s potential new constitution from the beginning. An article for Yes Scotland quotes coordinator Toni Giugliano as saying: “Scotland can be a beacon of equality across the globe—but we need the powers of independence to do more. We want a Scotland with the powers to shelter persecuted LGBT people when they need asylum. Far too often the UK and its asylum policy have let our community down…
“We’ll complete this journey by campaigning for equality in a written constitution.”
However, during the last few decades Scotland has often been slower than other parts of the UK to enact many LGBT rights. England and Wales decriminalized sex between two men (it had always been technically legal for women) with the Sexual Offences Act in 1967, but it took until the Criminal Justice Act of 1980 for Scotland to follow suit.
In 2005, Scotland joined the rest of the UK in banning discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation and introduced civil partnerships—functionally almost identical to marriage—for same-sex couples. England and Wales granted gay couples the right to second-parent and joint adoption the same year, but Scotland didn’t do the same until 2009. Only Northern Ireland delayed longer, taking until 2013.
Scotland is also still reviewing its same-sex marriage bill, approved by the Scottish Parliament in February 2014. It is expected to come into effect by the end of 2014 or beginning of 2015. (There are currently no plans to enact marriage equality in Northern Ireland; such partnerships originating from outside the region are recognized there as civil unions.)
It should also be noted, though, that in July 2014, the governmental organization One Scotland launched a campaign called “Scotland Believes in Equality.”
Its About page explains, “Scotland believes in equality for all. One Scotland celebrates the progress we’ve already made on equality whilst recognising the work still to be done to achieve a truly inclusive society.”
The independence referendum, which will ask simply, “Should Scotland be an independent country?” is scheduled for a vote on September 18.