Tuesday, 2 September 2014

The "rainbow paper" is bias and misleading

The Rainbow Paper by YES LGBTI Scotland
The Pro-independence group YES LGBTI issued a rainbow paper, which is a manifesto for Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) equality in an Independent Scotland.  

The rainbow paper is supported by Partick Harvie MSP, a leading campaigner for LGBT equality and human rights.  

The manifesto heavily criticises the UK and Westminster approach to LGBTI Equality and Human Rights and claims that Equality will only be guaranteed through a written Scottish constitutional commitment to LGBT people.

The group also claims that Westminster is holding back and threatens to reverse hard won LGBT equality rights.  

The content of the paper can be read here, in its PDF form.http://www.yesscotland.net/sites/default/files/resources/documents/the_rainbow_paper.pdf 

Daniel Donaldson, an Edinburgh based Equalities Lawyer, responded to some of the claims made by the groupthis evening.  Daniel who also recently experienced horrific Hate Crime, where he was branded a "Peedo" and a "Beast" said:

“The ‘Rainbow Paper’ issued by YES Scotland is misleading people.

“It is important to show a balance here and to not mislead LGBTI people into thinking that the UK is all bad and that an Independent Scotland will be all good, when it comes to protecting and protecting LGBTI human rights.

“It is also disingenuous to say that Scotland has consistency been more progressive than Westminster in terms of LGBTI equality.

“One fatal flaw in the YES LGBTI argument is that YES Scotland want to abolish the UK Supreme Court. Why would anyone want to abolish a Court which has affirmed and defended LGBTI rights, first in terms of LGBTI asylum and refugee status, and then again in terms upholding the non-discrimination provisions of the Equality Act when faced with several challenges by powerful lobby groups.

“This position contrasts with Scotland, where the Scottish Government, under the SNP leadership, sought to water down and exclude Roman Catholic adoption agencies from Equality Law to allow them to discriminate against same-sex couples. Contrast this with that of the UK, which refused to amend the Sexual Orientation Regulations, despite Scottish Government pressure to do so.

“It is also important to remember, that a written constitution, which specifically mentions LGBTI people is no guarantee that LGBTI rights will be protected. The South African constitution mentioned LGBT people, but when it came to considering same-sex marriage, the Government only changed the law after a Court Challenge.

“Without the UK Supreme Court, which currently protects the rights of LGBTI people, across the UK as a whole, a written Scottish Constitution would be meaningless as the Scottish Courts have adopted a critical and highly conservative interpretation of human rights law. Indeed, there was at least one LGBT Asylum case heard in Scotland which failed.

“The UK, having a wide network of Embassies and Consulates across the World has heavily lobbied for LGBT equality. The UK has the standing in the World to take many of the non-LGBTI friendly countries to task over their human rights record, and this has to be acknowledged.

“There is always room for improvement in any constitutional set-up, where equality and human rights are concerned. However, to completely ignore the accomplishments the UK in this field, and to paint everything in such a negative light, it just plain wrong.

“LGBTI people expect more from both sides of the Scottish Independence debate and I would encourage the YES Scotland campaign not to mislead people and be more honest about the advances made in terms of LGBTI equality and human rights in scotland as part of the UK.”

Sunday, 24 August 2014

My "ice bucket" challenge, challenge

I can understand the need to raise money and awareness for good causes. However, why just a one off, "ice bucket" challenge? 

Most days of my life, I show compassion for others in one way or another. I volunteer, I do pro bono legal work, I do impromptu youth and social work, and when someone needs my help, I do what I can for them. At times, this can be challenging, and people keep asking me why I do it, as there is no reward involved and I'm not taking pictures or video for you tube.

So, here is my my challenge to all my friends; compassion for others is more than having a bucket of water thrown over your head, and being filmed for you tube, it should be part of your way of life. 

If we all cared a little more about our fellow human beings in our daily lives, then there would be no need for the one offs.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Hate Crime Laws Are Not Working - An Open Letter

Stonewall Scotland's Poster Campaign

An Open Letter to;
Kenny MacAskill MSP, Scottish Justice Secretary,

Lord Advocate, Frank Mulholland QC,

The Chief Constable of Police Scotland, Stephen House,

The Equality and Human Rights Commission and 
The Scottish Human Rights Commission,

12 August 2014

Dear Sirs,

Ineffective Protections against Hate Crime

My Partner and I are on the receiving end of vicious Hate Crime, because of our sexual orientation. 

I had been lead to believe that the criminal justice system would protect both my Partner and myself from Hate Crime.  However, despite the grand standing that took place, heralding the introduction of Hate Crime legislation, by the Scottish Government, the Equality and Human Rights Commission and others, the law is a dud. 

The reasons for this; first, the perpetrators of the Hate Crime are all under the age of 16, and are classified as Children, and second, there is no effective monitoring of how the law protects victims of Hate Crime, allowing solutions to this problem to have been identified. 

I have been branded a “Peedo” and a “Beast” in front of my own home.  Our car windscreen has been smashed in.  Stones, bricks and other missiles have all been thrown at our home, our property is subject to regular trespass and Children will even come as far as the front door to bang and shout abuse.  What is more disturbing, is that the Children even solicited the support of wayward adults to assist in their campaign of terror, shouting “Best, Beast, Beast” at me and my home.

The Children concerned were charged and reported (through the Children’s hearing system).  I had hoped this would out an end to it.  However, because they are under 16, they were free to continue the abuse, and to encourage others to abuse us too.  They knew they would get away with it, which is why they continued, after being charged, reported and warned about their behavior. 

I have nothing but praise for my local Police Officers, who have been very supportive.  However, they find that their hands are tied.  The Police simply do not have sufficient resources locally to be effective, despite Hate Crime being classified as a national priority.  I also note, that the Crown Office does not review the effectiveness of the legislation, and the important legal protection that the law is meant to bring. 

Additionally, public policy considerations designed to promote the rights of the Child – even if the Children concerned are perpetrators of vicious abuse – trump those of the right of the victim to seek redress.  This is deeply disappointing, because as a result, my Partner and I are left without an effective remedy and, are left to suffer further torment.

Notwithstanding our legal entitlement to protection from acts of homophobic abuse, harassment and vandalism, there is little the criminal or civil law can do to help us. 

I am a qualified Solicitor, and sought refuge in the civil law.  I attempted to obtain an Interdict, with power of arrest and non-harassment orders against our abusers.  However, even this route was blocked.  In order to take this action, I would have required the cooperation of the local Social Work department, and the Police in order to obtain the identities of the perpetrators of the abuse.  That cooperation was refused owing to “child confidentiality”. 

We also approached the local Council community safety team at the City of Edinburgh Council for help.  It is now four weeks and counting, but no response.  They have done nothing to help us, nor have they offered any support.  Yet, under the Antisocial Behaviour legislation, they could take action.  So why haven’t they?  In my view, it is down to a question of priorities, and upsetting their colleagues in either Social Work or the Housing Department is not a priority.  A local council is highly unlikely to take Court action against itself now, is it?

My partner and I, are now looking to relocate away from Edinburgh.  We have had enough.  I hope that when we move, we get to enjoy the peace and quiet in our own home, and the freedom from abuse, harassment and vandalism, that we should expect. 

I now expect you gentlemen to take decisive action, given our experience, to prevent anyone else having to endure this horrific torment. 

Yours faithfully,

 Daniel Donaldson

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Scottish Labour - Party of [IN]equality

The Labour Party operates a system of positive discrimination when deciding who to select as a prospective parliamentary candidate (PPC).  This system is designed to increase the number of women PPCs being selected by local parties and then elected to seats in Holyrood or at Westminster. 

However, the system is not without criticism and is open to abuse, as recent Holyrood and Westminster selections have demonstrated in Scotland.  Additionally, no parallel system of positive discrimination exists for PPCs who have a disability or come from a particular minority ethnic background.  

This article explores the institutional failures of the Labour Party to address the inequality experienced by PPCs and highlights the abuses that can take place, when a system of positive discrimination is not properly regulated or controlled.  

Recruitment of PPCs within the Labour Party

All PPCs are required to apply to the Party centrally first.  If the application meets the required criteria, the applicant is invited for interview.  Assuming there is no legal barrier, the majority of applicants who have met the criteria, succeeded at interview and attended a compulsory training day, receive the necessary accreditation to seek selection at a local level.  

Disability Discrimination 

Although the above system bears resemblance to any recruitment exercise for employment, all the classic hallmarks disability discrimination begin to emerge.  Throughout the process, the Party neglects to offer reasonable adjustments to facilitate the participation of applicants with a disability.  

This is an important legal requirement that applies to any job application.  Disabled people face many barriers to participation in the workforce, and likewise, disabled PPCs also face barriers to becoming PPCs.     

Even after interview, the discrimination against disabled applicants continues.  At the training events, no question was asked of applicants about reasonable adjustments.  In the author's experience, the problem of disability discrimination was made worse when the Party staff compounded the issue by setting "ground rules" which also discriminated.  

One of the ground rules for the training, to turn off all electronic devices, directly discriminated against candidates who required the use of assisted technology to participate.  This meant that disabled candidates, who required the use of technology, were forced not only to disclose their disability but also to raise their concerns in front of other non disabled candidates.  

Positive Discrimination - Women Only

The Party uses positive discrimination measurers to exclusively promote the selection of PPCs who are women.  This system is referred to as an all women shortlist.  In other cases, the Party twins two local constituencies with a guarantee that one constituency must select a female candidate and the other constituency a male or female candidate.  

This system of positive discrimination is meant to increase the number of female candidates being elected to Parliament.  However, no other political party has adopted this approach to selecting candidates and the system is open to abuse, when not carefully monitored or applied consistently.   

The abuse of the positive discrimination system is discussed below.  

Edinburgh West - Identified as a Key Seat but did not use Positive Discrimination

When the Party moved to select Cllr Cameron Day for the Edinburgh West UK parliamentary constituency, the selection committee was composed of individuals - including fellow Councillors - who had already declared their support for this candidate.  

Additionally, even though the Party had identified this as a Key seat, the Party chose not to deploy either an all women short list or a twinning arrangement to select a candidate.  

The selection timetable was also rushed through and objections concerning the arrangements were ignored.  The Party refused to accept or acknowledge any complaints.

It is important to remember that discrimination can be both direct and indirect.  The discrimination in this case was indirect, because while it did not directly exclude female PPCs from seeking selection, the selection process as a whole placed women at a particular disadvantage.     

It is common knowledge that the majority of carers, part time workers and stay at home parents are women.  The arrangements in this selection, had been set in such a way - over the school holidays - that would make it difficult, if at all possible, to successfully apply for selection, contact members, attend hustings and finally a selection meeting.  

In fact, the chair of the selection committee and one of the key proponents of the rushed timetable, was Cllr. Lesley Hinds, whom had made no secret of her support for candidature of Cllr. Day.

In this case, the Party specifically chose not to deploy an all women short list or a twinning arrangement.  If the Party wished to promote equality for women and enable greater participation, and increase the number of female MPs returned to Westminster, why did it not do so here?

Dunfermline by-election - an Open Selection Turns into an All Women Shortlist

The Party announced the selection of candidates for the Dunfermline by-election.  At this stage, the Party invited applications from all PPCs whom had been approved.  This was to be an open selection.  
However, during the course of this selection, the Party switched from an open selection to a closed, all women short list selection procedure.  This meant that the two male candidates were purposely removed from the selection procedure.  

The Party claimed, that they wished to emphasise the issue of "domestic abuse" and hence chose to deploy an all women short list.  

The Party here not only discriminated against the two male candidates - by bumping them from the selection process - but also belittled the experience of male victims of domestic abuse.  

The use of domestic abuse, as a reason for creating an all women shortlist, is unlawful.  

This constituted a direct act of discrimination on grounds of sex, sexual orientation, disability, gender recognition, race, religion and age.  Whether on their own or in concert, people with each of these legally protected characteristics also experience abuse, which is why an all women short list cannot be justified.

Edinburgh Northern and Leith - One Candidate for the All Women Shortlist

The Party received an announcement that the male MSP for Edinburgh Northern and Leith was to retire.  Accordingly, the Party began the search for a new candidate.  Following consultation with the local Party, it was decided to create an all women short list.  However, what was the Party's motivation for doing so?  

As the selection process begins, it emerged, at close of nominations, that there was only one candidate.  

That candidate, a leading proponent of the all women short list system, was Cllr. Lesley Hinds.  

Cllr Hinds and Cllr Day (the PPC for Edinburgh West) had agreed to mutually support one another, to ensure their respective nominations.  

As you recall from above, it was Cllr Hinds who lead the selection process for Edinburgh West and now, having ensured Cllr Day's selection was free to pursue Edinburgh Northern and Leith.  

In order to cement this relationship, Cllr Day began an active lobby on Cllr Hinds behalf.  For example, at a Labour fundraising event, he introduced Cllr Hinds to the assembled gathering from the floor as, "the next Labour MSP for Northern and Leith".  

This constituted a personal canvass on behalf of Cllr. Hinds.  This was not only against the Party rules, but no selection process had begun and no potential candidate was meant to solicit support, in advance of an announced selection process.   

In this case, the decision to use an all women shortlist was not about promoting women in politics.  It was not about addressing inequality either.  The system was abused to select one candidate in particular, who just happened to be a woman.  The lack of opposition at the selection meeting, speaks for itself.  

Edinburgh Local Government Selection

Prior to the European Election, the Party again decided to discriminate unlawfully.  

In this case, the local Edinburgh membership, was informed that only women members would be invited to apply to the local government list - this is an internal list from which the Party selects local government candidates.

The Party had hoped, that they would be able to nominate an all women shortlist in the event of a by-election.  

When this was pointed out as unlawful discrimination, the Party said that they would open the list to everyone at a later stage.  However, there was no reason why the list could no be opened up to everyone immediately.

The correct approach, if the Party wished to increase the prevalence of women on the list, would have been to welcome, encourage and support more women to come forward.      

Edinburgh Western Scottish Parliament Selection - Discrimination Against Minority Ethnic Candidates

In Labour's selection for Edinburgh Western, two male candidates from a minority ethnic background, one other male candidate and one white female candidate all sought selection for the twinned constituencies of Edinburgh Western and Edinburgh Pentlands.

It is important to remember that there was no suggestion of racism in this particular selection or that the Party behaved in a racist manner.  However, the problem of indirect discrimination was not addressed.  

The female candidate would automatically be selected because the two constituencies were twinned. This meant that the three male PPCs had to compete for the remaining constituency.  In this case, the successful male candidate happened to be a Party insider as an aide to the leader of Labour in Scotland.

The Labour Party's Point of View

In recent commentary, the Party has described it's selection processes as fair and transparent. Additionally, the Party also considers the use of both all women shortlists and the twinning procedure as a progressive measure.

The author agrees that it is a progressive to seek increased representation and participation from women in politics.  The difficulty here arises where a hierarchy of competing priorities is created, to the exclusion of others.   

The Party does not support candidates from minority ethnic backgrounds, candidates who are disabled or posses any other protected characteristic, unless they are female.  This is where the problems with both direct and indirect discrimination arise.   

The Party also advocates both a "fair and transparent" selection system, placing all candidates on an equal footing, under one set of rules.  However, the rules are, more often than not, ignored.  The selection process is neither fair nor transparent, it is open to abuse, and it discriminates both directly and indirectly.  

Selecting the Few, not the Many

In the Edinburgh Western example, the successful male candidate worked as a party insider.  The two minority ethnic candidates stood no realistic chance of being selected for this reason.  Additionally, because a twinned arrangement was put in place, the only female candidate was automatically selected.  

No positive action measures are deployed to support minority ethnic candidates.

In years gone by, Party staff, including the staff of MSPs or the Party leader, would have been barred from taking part in any selection process.  The reason for this rule, was simple - party staffers are already inside the system - they are already known, have access to the mass membership and automatically carry endorsement.  Local membership at party meetings are not going to move against that endorsement, nor would the Party permit an insider to fail.  It would be too embarrassing.

If this selection were to be considered fair, the Party should have taken a wider view, in order to eliminate any direct or indirect discrimination.  This was not done.   


Contrary, to the Party's stated position of equality, fairness and transparency, the Party does discriminate and does not operate fair procedures.

The Party does not fulfil its legal obligations to eliminate both direct an indirect discrimination.   

The non-discrimination provisions of the Equality Act are abused by the Party and decisions are made not to emancipate female PPCs but to promote certain candidates who just happen to be women.  

There is no support for disabled or minority ethnic candidates who also face significant barriers to participation, and candidates who are either disabled or represent a minority ethnic community are routinely discriminated against.  

The Party machine lacks sufficient understanding of it's legal obligations - and refuses offers of help - to improve its practices.  

While it is a legitimate aim to increase the number of female politicians in both Holyrood and Westminster, the single minded, positive discrimination approaches deployed by Labour are open to abuse.  

If the current status quo is not altered and core behaviour changed, the Public will once again decline to return a Labour Government come 2016.  

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Sexual assaults against men...surely not?

Are men and women equal in the eyes of the law when it comes to sexual assault?

Is violence against women the same as violence against men?

This is a story from the past, but relevant to today concerning our attitudes of how we justify to ourselves right from wrong based on assumptions about gender.

When I was in my early 20's, I took to wearing my Kilt out and about, just on the odd time or two. On one occasion, I had stopped to tie my shoe lace or something, I cant quite recall what.

At the same time, a group of giggly girls and women passed by, I think they may have been on a Hen Night. Anyhow, two of the group approached me and tried to lift my kilt and feel me underneath.

I was, for want of a better phrase, quite shocked and had to push one of the girls off me. I also had to be quite forceful in telling the girls to "fuck off".

It was not a "bit of a laugh", at least for me.

My fault
I was wearing my Kilt. I naturally had decided to draw attention to myself. I therefore invited this kind of act...or had I?

Role reversal

Now consider this, had my gender been female, had I been wearing a nice outfit and looked good for a night out, would it have been acceptable for a group of men to come over and attempt to feel me up?

I hope all would agree that the answer is No!

So, why then, was it acceptable for a group of girls to do this to me?

Is gender relevant?

Time has moved on.

Unfortunately, our attitudes to sexual violence against both women and men have not.

The law has also changed. The Criminal Law, recognises that assaults of this type are gender neutral.

The moral of the story is...

So the next time you see a man in a kilt, or a woman wearing nice clothes, it is not an invitation to go and feel them up, to Wolf whistle or try to sexualise them in some other way.

Most importantly, if they decide to complain to a passing Police Constable, expect to get arrested.

Above all else, they didn't deserve it, because like everyone else that night, they had chosen to wear some nice clothes.

If you have been a victim of abuse and are seeking support, please use the links below to access help, advice and support.

The sites below are largely Scottish. However, if you would like to suggest other links, please get in touch.

If you are in immediate danger dial 999 for the police.

Police Scotland

Victim Support Scotland

Scottish Domestic Abuse Helpline

Scottish Women's Aid

Abused Men in Scotland

Broken Rainbow - Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Abuse Charity

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Statement Concerning the Scottish Courts Service

I have worked exceptionally hard over the last three years or so to promote equality within the Scottish Courts Service (SCS) as an unpaid volunteer member of their Equalities Advisory Group (EAG).

During this time, I took on many challenging subjects and in particular took a lot of time, outside of attending our regular meetings, to take forward additional work.  

I enjoyed this work and also looked forward to each of the meetings to which I contributed fully.  

Regretfully, I was told by Chair on Monday (17 February 2014) afternoon, that I was no longer welcome to be a member of the EAG.  

I am disappointed but to a certain extent, not surprised.    

It was not until I raised concerns recently about ongoing disability discrimination and transphobia, which were backed by evidence, that both Chair and the SCS management decided that I was no longer welcome.  

I tried repeatedly to raise these issues but felt that I was ignored.  

In particular, the SCS authorised the refurbishment of a court room in Dundee with scant regard to accessibility and more regard for financial expediency.  

Needless to say, I objected to this as it is not the manner in which our public services are meant to behave.  

It has subsequently been pointed out to me that as an EAG member I have no right to raise a grievance within the SCS and that the dignity at work policy does not apply to members of the EAG amongst other matters.  

In particular, it has also emerged that Chair has the right to remove members of the EAG.  

Raising a complain under the Equality Act is a protected act.  This means that a person raising a complain about disability discrimination and transphobia as I have done should not suffer any detriment for doing so.  

As a basic human right, everyone is entitled to have their dignity respected.  

Additionally, public bodies, such as the SCS, are required to apply the European Convention on Human Rights to all aspects of their work.   

Volunteer Development Scotland, together with the Scottish TUC, agreed a code of practice for organisations that work with Volunteers.  

The SCS does not subscribe to this code.  Amongst other things, the code states that:- 

Effective structures should be put in place to support and develop volunteers and the activities they undertake, and these should be fully considered and costed when services are planned and development.

 Volunteers and paid staff should be provided with opportunities to contribute to the development of volunteering policies and procedures.

 Volunteers, like paid staff, should be able to carry out their duties in safe, secure and healthy environments that are free from harassment, intimidation, bullying, violence and discrimination.

 All paid workers and volunteers should have access to appropriate training and development. 

There should be recognised machinery for the resolution of any problems between organisations and volunteers or between paid staff and volunteers. 

I was not told in advance that Chair intended to remove me from the EAG nor was I told about a secret letter that had been prepared and delivered to Chair by the SCS management. 

I was not given an opportunity to see this letter or address any of its contents. 

I was mislead as to the nature of this meeting. 

I was also accused of being "aggressive and threatening".  

My dignity was violated yesterday and I left our meeting in a distressed state.

At no stage have I ever been aggressive or threatening to anyone.  

I raised a complaint concerning the SCSs failure to address accessibility and transphobia.  I also stated that there was a problem with institutional discrimination.

I was victimised for doing so.

I was bullied by them.  

If the SCS had in place appropriate structures and machinery for addressing my concerns, I am sure that matters would not have gone this far.  Unfortunately, they do not.  

I am disappointed at the manner in which both Chair and the SCS have handled my complaints.  

I am also disappointed that it appears acceptable to unilaterally remove a member of the EAG, to write a secret letter about them and not provide any opportunity to answer its contents and then accuse someone like myself of being aggressive and threatening. 

I am now considering my position.  

A complaint has been made to the SCS about mondays meeting and the failure to address my concerns. 

We will wait and see what happens.  

I would welcome your support right now as it is a struggle to keep up the good fight on my own. 

This is even more difficult and distressing for me because I have multiple disabilities and I cannot come to terms with how this public body has behaved.

Yours for equality,