LGBT Youth Scotland (School Youth Clubs)

Topical Question Time – in the Scottish Parliament am ar 23 Ebrill 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Meghan Gallacher Meghan Gallacher Ceidwadwyr

To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on the LGBT Youth Scotland pilot programme to introduce youth clubs in schools. (S6T-01938)

Photo of Jenny Gilruth Jenny Gilruth Scottish National Party

I can confirm that LGBT Youth Scotland is not undertaking a pilot programme to introduce youth clubs in schools.

Photo of Meghan Gallacher Meghan Gallacher Ceidwadwyr

It has been widely reported that Scottish primary schools are appointing children as LGBT champions and asking pupils as young as four whether they are transgender. That is part of a project that was set up by LGBT Youth Scotland and funded by the Scottish Government, using taxpayers’ money. Parents are outraged by some of the materials that have been distributed by schools that have signed up to those youth clubs.

My understanding is that LGBT Youth Scotland’s charitable constitution clearly states that the age range that its activities covers is from 13 to 25 years old, which is of course outwith the age of children in primary schools. Will the cabinet secretary confirm whether LGBT Youth Scotland is in breach of its charitable constitution and whether she has any grip on what is happening in our schools?

Photo of Jenny Gilruth Jenny Gilruth Scottish National Party

The substantive part of Meghan Gallacher’s question was about whether I could provide an update on LGBT Youth Scotland piloting a programme to introduce youth clubs in schools. As I stated in my original response, that is not currently the case. I hope that that is on the record and that the member will understand that.

More broadly, we know that LGBT groups can play a really important role in schools in ensuring that LGBT young people are included in their school communities. Those groups are established by schools as part of an inclusive approach to education. I am sure that Ms Gallacher will have met some of those groups on her visits to local schools. That is aligned with ensuring that all our children and young people are included and engaged at school, which can be crucial in tackling the anti-LGBT incidents that we all know are on the increase. I hope that every member in the chamber can support that.

Photo of Meghan Gallacher Meghan Gallacher Ceidwadwyr

I mentioned in my previous question that parents are concerned by the LGBT Youth Scotland scheme. That is not coming from me; it is coming from parents who are speaking to me about those issues and who want them to be voiced in Parliament. Recent reports have outlined that a mother had to change her daughter’s school after it emerged that, within months of joining an LGBT club, her daughter announced in a Christmas card to her family that she had become their trans son and signed off with the preferred name. The problem is that the school did not tell the parents that their daughter had been using a different name in school for months. The school had signed up to the charter scheme that is run by the Scottish National Party funded charity LGBT Youth Scotland.

The Government has slowly been eroding the role of parents in school settings. We need only look at the named persons act to see a prime example of that. Why will the Government not allow kids to be kids? Will the cabinet secretary review the LGBT Youth Scotland programme to ensure that young people are provided with appropriate materials and that parents are not excluded from their child’s learning experience?

Photo of Jenny Gilruth Jenny Gilruth Scottish National Party

I thank Ms Gallacher for her supplementary question. I think that she is referring to the LGBT Youth Scotland charter for education. It is up to individual schools to decide whether they wish to undertake the LGBT Youth Scotland charter programme. However, I note for the record that, back in July 2022, Meghan Gallacher signed a motion by her parliamentary colleague Jackson Carlaw that congratulated

“Eastwood High School in Newton Mearns on receiving the LGBT Charter at Silver level”,


“the efforts, dedication and hard work of both pupils and staff to achieve this prestigious award from LGBT Youth Scotland”

and welcomed

“the training and a review of policies, practices and resources at the school to ensure that Eastwood High strives to go beyond meeting legislative requirements”.

I do not know why Meghan Gallacher has changed her mind about the charter in the interim two years. [ Interruption .] I hear chuntering from a sedentary position, but I think that it is worth my while to put that on the record.

On the substantive point about parental contact, the guidance is clear that, if a young person does not discuss the matters with their family, the school can support the young person on how to have that conversation and when, but it should not take that decision for the young person.

Photo of Collette Stevenson Collette Stevenson Scottish National Party

Does the cabinet secretary agree that the best way to combat discrimination is to tackle prejudice before it can take root? It is for that reason that Scotland’s schools must be an inclusive and positive environment for LGBT+ pupils.

Photo of Jenny Gilruth Jenny Gilruth Scottish National Party

I absolutely agree with the points that the member makes. It is worth while to remember and put it on the record that Scottish schools were not always a safe space for LGBT young people during the days of section 28, when I was at school.

We are committed to doing everything that we can to make Scotland the best place to grow up in for the LGBTQ+ community, and education settings have a lot to contribute in that regard. It is vital that we all help to instil the values of respect and tolerance in our children and young people, which is why we have made significant progress in embedding LGBT education across the curriculum rather than in specific LGBT lessons. That will improve the learning environment for all children and young people. It is also worth my while to recall that, during the previous session of Parliament, that approach—inclusive education—was supported on a cross-party basis.

Photo of Jamie Greene Jamie Greene Ceidwadwyr

I wish that there had been LGBT youth clubs when I was at school. If there had been, perhaps I would not have had such a miserable time of it or left school so early.

I understand the importance of an inclusive environment. However, it is fair to say that all the material that children have access to should be age appropriate. Will the cabinet secretary explain how the Government is monitoring that? It is also important that parents who have concerns about material that their children have access to should have direct access to voice those concerns or indeed to exclude such material from being in front of their children. We all want to do the right thing on this, but it is also fair to raise any concerns that parents might have, to ensure that there is trust in the entire system.

Photo of Jenny Gilruth Jenny Gilruth Scottish National Party

Absolutely. I worked with Jamie Greene on the matter during the previous session of Parliament and I very much support the concerns that he has raised in relation to parents’ rights in engaging with schools. That is why the National Parent Forum of Scotland and Connect were directly involved in development of the guidance. It is worth while to put that on the record.

In a report that was published last year, 67 per cent of participants—children and young people in schools—reported experiencing homophobic, biphobic or transphobic bullying during their time in school, which can also have an impact on their educational attainment. It is really important that we seek to work on such issues on a cross-party basis, to improve the lives of our LGBT young people for the better.