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by Margaret Taylor
27 March 2024
Scottish Parliament joins list of employers pulling out of Stonewall diversity programme

Protesters call for employers to quit Stonewall's Diversity Champions programme during a protest in 2022 | Alamy

Scottish Parliament joins list of employers pulling out of Stonewall diversity programme

The Scottish Parliament has confirmed that it has withdrawn from LGBTQ+ charity Stonewall’s Diversity Champions programme, joining a raft of organisations that have distanced themselves from the charity over its lobbying interests.

Founded in 1989, Stonewall initially campaigned on gay, lesbian and bisexual rights before becoming trans-inclusive in 2015.

In addition to publishing an annual index on the UK’s top 100 employers for LGBT inclusion, the organisation runs a Diversity Champions programme that helps organisations implement diversity and inclusion policies.

Employers including the BBC, Channel 4, Ofsted, the Cabinet Office and equality watchdog the Equality and Human Rights Commission have all withdrawn from the scheme in recent years.

Reasons include Stonewall’s stance on trans issues, including the assertion that people should be allowed to self-identify in their chosen gender, and whether the scheme provides value for money.

A spokesperson for the Scottish Parliament said it had withdrawn from the scheme last month after deciding not to renew its annual membership, which costs £3,090 a year.

“Our Stonewall membership enabled us to advance equality for our LGBT+ staff and implement our Trans and Non-Binary Policy for employees and managers,” the spokesperson said.

“While we informed Stonewall earlier this month that we would not be renewing our membership, we continue to have positive relations with the organisation.”

In 2022 the Scottish Government passed legislation that would have enshrined self-identification for trans people into law, but that was blocked by the UK Government, which successfully argued in court that Holyrood’s Gender Recognition Reform Bill would have altered the scope of the UK Equality Act. The Scottish Parliament does not have the power to alter UK-wide legislation.

Last week it was announced that parliamentary staff would no longer be allowed to wear rainbow lanyards to work, with Lorna Foreman, head of people and culture at the parliament, saying it would “help to minimise the risk of perceived bias and avoid any perception that wearing such items may be influencing our own decision-making”.

While pronoun pins are allowed, those who work at the parliament must now only wear parliament-issued purple lanyards to display their pass and remove other pins and badges from clothing.

The rule change, which does not apply to MSPs, comes after the parliament was last year criticised for removing a feminist badge from a member of the public who was attending one of its committees.

The woman, who was attending a session focused on how the sex of the accused in rape cases is recorded, was asked by a female guard to remove the badge, which was composed of the venus symbol and two Xs representing female chromosomes.

With reference to staff members, Foreman said: “Wearing personalised lanyards and/or pins and badges showing support for social movements and towards campaigns or organisations has led some organisations and individuals to consider that the [Scottish Parliamentary Service] cannot be impartial when supporting the parliament to debate government policy, proposed new laws and current significant societal issues.”

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