CI: ‘Scot Govt will land itself in court over new conversion practices law’

The Scottish Government faces a legal battle in its controversial bid to outlaw so-called conversion practices, The Christian Institute has warned.

As the public consultation on the plans closed, Institute Public Affairs Officer Joanna Cook said the new law risks criminalising churches and parents and reiterated an earlier threat of court action.

The SNP/Green coalition wants to outlaw ‘practices’ that seek to change, suppress or inhibit someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Activists are campaigning for this to cover “casual conversations”, “gentle, non-coercive prayer”. They even say children should be able to change gender without their parents’ consent.

‘Thought crime’

Miss Cook said: “There are already strong laws on the statute book to protect gay and trans people. Existing law thankfully tackles verbal and physical abuse in Scotland today.

They want a new speech crime. A thought crime.

“But those campaigning for a conversion practices law aren’t content with that. They want a new speech crime. A thought crime. And, I’m afraid, the Scottish Government’s proposals give them that.

“The Government’s plans to introduce ‘conversion practices protection orders’ are especially alarming. They would hand the courts very broad powers to restrict the free speech of individuals based purely on activists’ speculation about what they might say to gay or trans people.”

She added: “Our solicitors wrote to the Government preparing the ground for judicial review in February 2022. If Parliament passes a law that tramples on basic freedom of speech and religion, we are ready to challenge it all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary.”


In a scathing legal opinion for the CI, leading human rights lawyer Aidan O’Neill KC described the proposals to outlaw ‘conversion practices’ as “ill-thought out”, “fundamentally illiberal” and excessively punitive – ‘offenders’ face up to seven years in prison and unlimited fines.

Mr O’Neill advised the Institute: “if passed this legislation would criminalise parents who sought to exercise any form of parental authority or guidance in relation to their children as regards issues around sexuality and gender which conflicted with the official position now adopted by the State”.

The KC also stated that it would “have a chilling effect” on the ability of churches “to teach and preach and lobby and proselytise, on any matters relating to sexuality and/or gender”.

He concluded that there are very strong arguments that the plans are “beyond the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament, primarily because of their over-breadth, their disproportionate intrusion into private and family life and freedom of religion and freedom of expression, but also because of their internal incoherence”.

‘No evidence’

In February, Dean of The Faculty of Advocates Roddy Dunlop KC said there is no “legally coherent” definition of ‘conversion therapy’ or data to prove that it is happening in Scotland.

Responding to comments made by trans activist Cameron Archibald, Mr Dunlop said: “It all comes back to the definition. Until you have a legally coherent one, and you don’t (as you have accepted) there’s a problem. This is the criminal law we’re talking about. Not student politics.”

Claims previously made by Blair Anderson – a leading proponent of a ban – about the prevalence of ‘conversion practices’ in Scotland were questioned by journalist Susan Dalgety.

The journalist quipped: “Hi Blair, could you point to the data source which shows 1000s of Scots undergoing conversion therapy. The consultation document only highlights the self selecting 2017 UK wide LGBT survey and in 2021 the Scot Govt said it held no information on numbers. Thanks.”

Also see:


‘Conversion practices’ Bill fails in House of Commons

Second ‘conversion practices’ Bill slammed by top KC

Starmer commits to ‘all-encompassing conversion therapy law’

Related Resources