by Lee Robb, Vice Convener, City of Stirling SNP
Nobody can claim that Richard Leonard has had an easy time of it since he was elected Leader of the Scottish Labour Party. From ill-informed speeches on the public nature of agencies like Scottish Water to woeful contributions at First Minister’s Questions, it’s clear that the fortunes of Labour in Scotland are not set to improve any time soon.
However, since Mr Leonard finally got around to assembling his own frontbench team at Holyrood, he has come under fire for one appointment in particular: an anti-gay marriage campaigner as Scottish Labour’s spokesperson on equality.
Elaine Smith MSP spent much of her time in 2013 warning the country that gay people getting married would cause unforeseen “problems for society overall.” At the time, she also predicted the arrival of legal polygamy which, according to her calculations, would come as a direct result of same-sex couples entering into civil marriages.
As if this weren’t enough to make clear Smith’s views on same-sex relationships, she offered yet more to her ‘I’m not homophobic, but…’ tirade by criticising the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill for not providing “freedom of speech” protections to people who would otherwise discriminate against gay couples.
It is therefore alarming that a person with such strong views against equal rights for gay people is now the chief policymaker on equality for Scottish Labour.