Scotland does not seek to dictate to fellow Commonwealth Games countries when it comes to rights for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, claimed the Scottish Government's Minister for External Affairs and International Development, Humza Yousaf, here today.
Addressing an audience at the Beyond the Games conference prior to the start of the Commonwealth Games on Wednesday (July 23), Yousaf admitted homophobia still remains a serious issue in Scotland and, like many of its fellow Commonwealth countries, the country is still on a journey and to criticise and dictate would not be constructive.
Instead, Yousaf says Scotland wants to "hold hands" with other nations to help improve all human rights, not just LGBT, as part of the legacy of the Games in Glasgow.
"I think an important aspect in terms of the legacy of these Games is that we don't lecture other Commonwealth countries," Yousaf told insidethegames.
"Look, we know there are real and substantial issues with LGBT rights and equality across the Commonwealth but we are not going to be able to tackle that by wagging our finger and shouting down on other countries.
"We want to hold their hands and say 'look, we have some issues and this is how we worked through that journey'.
"We are at a different stage of that journey."
Earlier this year, the Scottish Government legalised same-sex marriage, while homosexuality only became legal in Scotland in the early 1980s.
Last week, international human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell wrote an open letter to Glasgow 2014 organisers and the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) calling for competing nations at this year's Games to sign a pledge of non-discrimination in their team selection, in accordance with Article Seven of the constitution of the CGF.
He has also called for an extension to Article Seven to include an explicit pledge of non-discrimination based on ethnicity, caste, sexual orientation and gender identity.
That has followed a growing body of criticism of the Scottish Government's and Glasgow 2014's decision to allow Ugandan politicians to attend the Games, despite the country passing laws in December banning homosexuality in the country.
Tatchell claims 42 of the 53 Commonwealth member countries have laws that criminalise homosexuality, with seven of these having a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
"Quite rightly, Peter Tatchell is somebody who has a great reputation for standing up for not only LGBT rights but human rights across the board, so we take what he has to say very, very seriously," said Yousaf, first elected to the Scottish Parliament in May 2011 at the age of 26.
"We welcome his input, whatever it is.
"Anything that strengthens the Commonwealth Games' ability to reach beyond what it is doing at the moment in terms of human rights we will always be supportive of."
But Yousaf rejected any suggestion that the Scottish Government is being soft on the issue, claiming that calls for a boycott of the Games over its stance on Uganda are not supported by LGBT groups in the African country due to fears of a backlash, while insisting asylum seekers fleeing persecution for their sexual orientation will be welcomed in Scotland.
"When Uganda introduced those laws, the Scottish Government took some incredible action," he said.
"We wrote to the UK Government to say that we will happily accept Ugandan refugees in Scotland who are fleeing because of this particular law.
"We stood up and said that this humanitarian issue is one that Scotland is not just going to stand idly by.
"We are going to take people who are seeking asylum because they are being persecuted for their sexual orientation.
"Anybody who comes here from Uganda or otherwise will be left in no doubt about our commitment to human rights."
Yousaf, whose parents came to Glasgow from Pakistan and Kenya in the 1960s, claimed he knows what it is like to experience discrimination which he says has strengthened his determination to ensure Glasgow is a place where everyone attending the Games will feel welcome.
"If you have lived all of your life in Glasgow, then you don't feel anything other than Glaswegian and Scottish," he said.
"And for somebody to question you about your role in society based on your sexual orientation or the colour of your skin; that is the worst thing in the world.
"I will stand with anybody regardless of their orientation, ability, disability or their race and say 'look, you are the first and last citizen in this city and don't let anybody ever tell you otherwise'".
Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]
July 2014: Amaechi hopes Glasgow 2014 can improve gay rights across Commonwealth
July 2014: Human rights campaigner Tatchell announced as Champion of Pride House at Glasgow 2014
May 2014: Glasgow City Council agrees to fly LGBT flag for Commonwealth Games
March 2014: Exclusive: Ugandan officials still welcome at Glasgow 2014 despite country passing anti-gay law
December 2013: Marc Naimark: Time for Commonwealth to stand up to homophobic members if Glasgow 2014 to mean anything