SNP promises to 'reflect' after backlash against conversion therapy ban proposals

The Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh.(Photo: Getty/iStock)

The SNP may be forced to tone down some of its proposals around banning so-called conversion therapy after concerns were raised that parental rights would be seriously undermined.

A consultation published last week outlined the penalties for breaching the proposed ban, with anyone found guilty of "suppressing" a person's gender identity facing up to seven years in jail.

Christian groups are among those to have raised concern about the threat to religious freedoms and parental rights.

Lois McLatchie Miller, spokesperson for Scotland at the Alliance Defending Freedom UK, called the proposals "draconian" and said they would "place parents under a terrifying and well-founded fear of losing their children or being locked up in prison for saying something contrary to the favoured ideology of the day".

"The proposed law would violate fundamental human rights, starting with the right and duty of parents to protect their children, in addition to religious freedom and free speech rights, including for those in a position to give pastoral support," she said.

"Children are not adults, and parents are not children. The vast majority of parents are committed to doing the sometimes difficult job of raising their children well. They deserve support and protection, not suspicion."

The Scottish Catholic Church said that a "worrying lack of clarity about what is meant by the term 'conversion practices' could create a chilling effect" and that religious freedoms must be protected.

Christian policy group CARE questioned the need for a ban and warned that "an ill-defined law on 'conversion practices' could lead to the subjective policing of speech about sexuality and gender, in a range of settings".

Representatives for the Scottish government said on Wednesday that they would "reflect" on the concerns raised by critics.

"There's obviously the formal written consultation process to which anybody can write and respond," a government spokesperson told journalists.

"The team in the Government and ministers are engaging one-to-one at the moment and for the next three months with a whole range of stakeholders.

"There's an open door to anybody who wants to come and speak to us and discuss their concerns.

"We're switching to listening mode now and really getting that feedback and considering it."

The spokesperson added that the government did not want to remove "day-to-day parental controls".

"The intention is only to address acts that are harmful and abusive," they said.

"Coercive is not intended to address parental advice, discussions, day-to-day parental controls. But we're going to reflect on all the feedback that's received as part of the consultation process."

The consultation is open until 2 April.