It’s not just about winning, how you win matters too

This week sees the debate on equal marriage in Scotland gather momentum, with the whole chamber debate on Stage 1 of the bill. It will be the first time we get to see the size of support among parliamentarians for the measure, and conversely, the scale of the opposition.

So let me let you in on the worst kept secret of the debate so far. SNP MSP John Mason and SNP Minister, Roseanna Cunningham, won’t be in the aye lobby.

They are likely to be joined by a range of others, including Labour MSPs Elaine Smith, Michael McMahon and Paul Martin as well as several of the Conservative group and a smattering more from the SNP, including more Ministers unless they can find pressing reasons to be absent from the Chamber. Michael Matheson might be one such and possibly also, Fergus Ewing. Indeed, only the Liberal Democrat and Scottish Green groups are likely to vote en masse in favour of the bill. (I’ve checked the Equal Marriage website and apologies to Michael Matheson, he’s a supporter. Shouldn’t have assumed that he’d oppose this based on previous voting.)

I blogged last year on my ambivalence on the whole venture. But it matters to the LGBT community – though there’s a suggestion it matters rather more to the G force than the L wing of that same community – and it is an issue of equality. Good enough for me, as it should be for the SNP. This is an equal rights issue on which there is agreed party policy. It simply shouldn’t be a free vote.

But alongside this, sits an uncomfortable juncture with human rights. I’m not the right blogger to enter into an extensive analysis of the complex relationship and interplay between various articles in the European Convention on Human Rights: for that we need the Peat Worrier. But suffice to say there is friction on this issue for individuals and public authorities between article 9 on freedom of thought, conscience and religion; article 8 on the right to private and family life and article 12 on the right to marry.

Thus, as other legislatures have done before it, Holyrood is allowing a free vote on equal marriage. Let’s hope then that the math has been done, and we get the right result. There will undoubtedly be a larger number of no voters than we might anticipate, but the majority in favour of the general principles of the bill is likely to be a substantial one. The organisations, The Equality Network and Stonewall Scotland foremost among them, which have campaigned for the law to be changed will, after Wednesday, be in sight of victory.

For some though, the prospect of winning by itself does not seem enough. Thus, this weekend, the Equality Network and a few of its supporters, have decided to call out those who will be opposing the bill. And get this, one is John Mason and – shock, horror – another is Roseanna Cunningham. And while I cannot agree with the reasons John Mason cites for his opposition, there is something to be said for him having bothered to write to bill supporters explaining himself. You don’t have to respect his opposition to respect his courtesy.

Roseanna appears to cite her long held faith, as well she might, given her human right to do so. It hasn’t gone down well. I hold no brief for the Catholic Church and some of what its representatives have said in this debate has been shocking and unforgivable. There is no doubt some of the teaching from the church has had harsh consequences for many LGBT people, particularly those who still believe or practise their faith. It might be wrong-headed, misinformed and difficult for some of us to accept: no matter. Living in a rights based society and democracy, as we now do, means tolerating everyone’s beliefs. Or at least, accepting that they have a right to hold them, just as you have a right to hold yours.

Crucially, when you’re winning, it’s important to win well. Just because some of your opponents – as you perceive it – might have little regard or respect for your rights, should not encourage bill supporters to respond likewise. Some of their behaviour and comments have been shrill, unedifying, unnecessary and potentially alienating.

And focussing ire on those who have made their opposition plain deflects energy from the task at hand: knowing where all the opposition sits and wooing those yet to be persuaded. Few with doubts and questions are likely to want to come forward to seek answers if they risk opprobrium for doing so. And that might be enough to persuade them to abstain. Surprises at Stage one wouldn’t be in my game plan.

Wednesday promises an historic moment in our Parliament’s short history. They don’t come around often enough and that in itself, should be enough to persuade the supporters of the Marriage and Civil Partnership bill to raise their game and raise their sights. Hold your heads high, go for the classy win and earn respect from all quarters in the process.


5 thoughts on “It’s not just about winning, how you win matters too

  1. I’m in the rather unexpected position of agreeing with you Duncan and that’s a rare occurrence indeed for me.

    I’ve witnessed first hand the evil inflicted on the African continent by the Roman Catholic church. Whether it be encouragement of the spread of HIV/Aids (which is exactly what it’s campaigns have done) or the persecution, imprisonment, gang-rape, and even murder or gay men and women. Homosexuality in itself not a crime? Call them mentally ill and chain them up until they literally do lose their minds then. This organisation has the blood of billions on its hands and, while many Africans are too poor and ill-educated to see it for what it is, an enlightened nation such as Scotland has no such excuse.

    How such an organisation – an organisation which has presided over and tolerated paedophilia on an industrial scale and continues to shelter its perpetrators – has not been criminalised and shut-down is a gross perversion in itself.

    For what it’s worth, I was raised a Catholic and that will always define part of who I am. But the modern Roman Catholic church has no relation to the teachings of Jesus Christ, Godhead figure or no.

    The worst thing we can do is appease them. Marriage is a word. It doesn’t belong to the church. The whole premise of maintaining it in it’s current form and distinguishing it as a concept that somehow belongs to the church is based on no other motive than to distinguish adherents to that notion as good/pure and the rest as sinners in need of redemption at best, eternal damnation at worst. In other words, homosexuals can never be amongst God’s chosen.

    The Roman Catholic church is an evil empire; an industrial complex designed to enrich itself at the expense of the poorest people of this planet. It has no place in the governance or legislature of any civilised country. The sooner it fades into history the better. No good has ever come of it.

    Funnily enough, the Bible says nothing about interfering with kids…

  2. Excellent piece Kate thanks

  3. Pingback: It’s not just about winning, how you win matters too | A Burdz Eye View | #ScotlandArise

  4. Yes, I called out John Mason and Roseanna Cunningham for their frightened, weak and stubborn opposition to the bill. And I previously called out Elaine Smith for the same thing (but, my goodness, I recall no opprobrium then from this SNP-aligned blogger).

    So I’d like to address the notion that mine and others’ “behaviour and comments have been shrill, unedifying, unnecessary and potentially alienating” by saying this:


    Deal with it.

    You think I ought to be conciliatory to someone peddling the homophobia of the Catholic Church which contributes to blighted lives across the globe and is directly responsible for some of the closet walls which prove so tough for many to break down that they choose to end their lives instead?

    You think I ought to be shaking hands and agreeing to disagree with someone who has sought out whatever lies fit to justify the fear and loathing in order to fight for LGBT lives to be of less worth?

    How “well” did we win the age of consent battle, Kate? How “well” did we win the Section 28 campaign? Got any tips on being nice to Brian Souter?

    We still have to win this battle, and not just in the parliament – in the country. And that means challenging homophobia whenever and wherever it rears its head.

    You want to pat the hands of the homophobes and tell them they are quite entitled to their views? Be my guest. I have better things to do.

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