Anthony Horan said it was ‘discriminatory’ to block the selection of candidates who deny the existence of trans people or oppose abortion. (Catholic Parliamentary Office)
The Catholic Church has accused the Scottish National Party (SNP) of blocking transphobes who oppose abortion from being selected for next year’s election.
Anthony Horan, director of the Catholic Parliamentary Office in Scotland, said there has been “open and vicious hostility” against SNP members who oppose abortion.
Horan cited the case of Lisa Cameron, the MP for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow, who he said had been subject to “calls for deselection” after she voted against lifting the ban on abortion in Northern Ireland, according to The Times.
The Catholic church raised concerns about this with party leader Nicola Sturgeon, but Horan raised doubts about the assurances it had received.
Speaking to The Times, Horan said that as well as abortion, candidates’ views on transgender people could see them discriminated against: “Alarmingly, recent reports suggest that religious affiliation, pro-life beliefs and the belief that gender is not fluid and changeable may lead to some individuals being excluded from the SNP candidate selection process ahead of next year’s Scottish parliament elections.
“If true, this would undermine entirely Ms Sturgeon’s claim that diversity of belief was something the SNP was ‘proud of’. It may be that in SNP branches across the country officials are prepared to discriminate against and disadvantage their party colleagues solely on the basis of their religious belief, their belief in the right to life of every human being or on their beliefs about biological sex.
“They may not be aware that they are acting in direct conflict with the position of their party, as expressed by their party leader.”
Horan added that he was concerned about the selection process for May’s election.
“It is of paramount importance that all parties respect the right to freedom of conscience in their candidate selection process and that a diversity of views is not simply tolerated, but welcomed, including the belief in the dignity of human life in the womb and the right to disagree with transgender ideology,” he said.
Last year, the SNP quietly ditched its manifesto pledge to support reforming gender-recognition laws after a backlash against trans rights within the party.
The issue has proved controversial within the SNP, with first minister Nicola Sturgeon facing significant dissent from the party’s MPs and MSPs over its own plans for a devolved gender recognition law.
There continues to be hostility to reforms within the party, with SNP MP Joanna Cherry telling the BBC last year that she feared “unintended consequences” to “rushing through self-identification legislation”.
This year, the coronavirus pandemic meant that plans to reform gender-recognition laws were paused.