Ending Conversion Practices Expert Advisory Group minutes: 23 August 2022

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 23 August 2022.

Attendees and apologies


  • Blair Anderson, Lived Experience (in person)
  • Dr Paul Behrens, University of Edinburgh (in person)
  • Pritpal Bhullar, Sarbat LGBT+ Sikhs (virtually)
  • Nick Bland, Equality and Inclusion Division, Scottish Government (chair) (in person)
  • Dr Mhairi Crawford, LGBT Youth Scotland (in person)
  • Dr Amber Keenan, NHS Grampian (in person)
  • Dr Rebecca Crowther, Equality Network (in person)
  • Richy Edwards, Lived Experience (in person)
  • Colin Macfarlane, Stonewall Scotland (in person)
  • Dr Igi Moon, The Coalition for the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) Against Conversion Therapy (virtually)
  • Florence Oulds, Scottish Trans (virtually)
  • Luis Felipe Yanes, Scottish Human Rights Commission (in person)
  • Hannah Winter, Lived Experience (virtually)

Scottish Government

  • Tara Lyle, Scottish Government (in person)
  • Rudi Paton, Scottish Government Legal Department (virtually)


  • Catrina Steenberg, Scottish Government (in person)
  • Lewis Todd, Scottish Government (in person)
  • Shumirai Mhonda-Kapora, Scottish Government (virtually)


  • Reverend Jide Macaulay, House of Rainbow
  • Very Reverend Dr Susan Brown, Church of Scotland
  • Reverend Elder Maxwell Reay, Metropolitan church, Augustine’s Edinburgh

Items and actions

Welcome and general updates

Chair welcomed attendees to the eight and final meeting of the Expert Advisory Group.

Key discussion points

Support and recommendations for practitioners

Dr Amber Keenan gave a presentation on the support and recommendations for practitioners. Her presentation covered the following:

Where conversion practices take place and their prevalence in the UK.

Who offers conversion practices including faith organisation groups, communities, healthcare or medical professionals, parents, guardians and family members.

The practitioners and/or sectors that need support such as medical or non-medical practitioners, those in physical health or mental health settings and the NHS, Social Care and Third/Private Sector.

The recent rise of LGBT+ hate crime and anti-trans rhetoric and the impact/influence this climate will have on practitioners.

The psychological harms from conversion practices including emotional and/or spiritual crisis, depression, low self-esteem, anxiety and suicidal ideation or intention, post-traumatic effects including PTSD, sexual dysfunction, guilt, shame, self-loathing and crisis of identity.

The risk of retraumatisation by an unreflective and/or inexperienced practitioner.

How healing, for those who experienced conversion practices in the context of religion, may also need to take place within religious communities/spaces. 

The need for a holistic approach which respects all components of a client’s identity and the need for a focus on internalised homophobia, guilt and shame.

Importance of trauma informed care for survivors.

The five key principles of Trauma-Informed Care:

  • safety – create areas that promote a sense of safety
  • trust – providing clear and consistent information
  • choice – providing options for treatment and care
  • collaboration – maximising collaboration between health care staff, patients and their families
  • empowerment – building upon a patient’s strengths and experiences

A phase based approach to healing from trauma: 

  • safety and Stabilisation – Understanding what happened, establishing trust and leaning to manage and regulate overwhelming emotions
  • remembrance and mourning – Processing the trauma
  • reconnect and integration – Creating a new sense of self and future
  • the need for difference services and different levels to support survivor
  • the need for lived experience experts at multiple levels

The proposed four levels of service provisions:

  • level one (informed) - Third sector/community which could include telephone helpline, support groups, 121 peer support, LGBT+ inclusive religious communities, advise and counselling
  • level two (skilled) - Primary care level psychological treatments. For example, GP Practice
  • level three (enhanced) – Secondary Care level psychological treatments. For example, community mental health teams
  • level four (expert) – Highly specialist services. For example, expert professional who can assist with complex trauma caused by conversion practices

The following recommendations were discussed:


  • awareness raising to the general public and wider workforce on conversion practices
  • normalising sexual and gender identity diversity
  • providing training to clinicians delivering interventions
  • access to specialist supervision/advice where required for clinicians

Research to find out:

  • the extent of conversion practices in Scotland
  • who the practitioners and victims are and where it takes place
  • are survivors accessing therapeutic services and if not, why that is
  • therapeutic access (at all tiers) 

Therapeutic Delivery:

  • equitable access across Scotland
  • equitable access regardless of age, race, and any other intersection
  • mindful of those hard to reach or unaware if provision
  • standards of care

Discussion on proposed recommendations 

Discussions on the 'definition' covered:

  • definitions of ‘gender expression’, ‘gender identity’ and ‘sexual orientation’
  • what a definition of ‘conversion practices’ will encompass
  • the intent to ‘change, suppress and/or eliminate’ a person’s gender expression, gender identity or sexual orientation needed for actions to constitute conversion practices
  • the challenges or limitation a definition could present

Legislative measures and enforcement mechanisms:

  • the acts that would constitute conversion practices and would therefore be criminalised
  • making sure there are no loopholes that will allow for conversion practices to continue
  • how to prevent individuals being taken from Scotland, to a place where conversion practice might be legal, for the purposes of performing conversion practice
  • whether consent can or cannot be a defence for conversion practices
  • whether there should be exceptions to the prohibition of the criminalised acts or not

Civil response scheme and non-criminalisation

Discussions on the civil response scheme and non-criminalisation covered the following:

A free and accessible telephone helpline to provide support an advice regarding conversion practices.

The telephone helpline should ensure anonymity of callers.

A ‘Commission’ to monitor and the functions and objectives of the proposed Commission:

How the Commission, Law Enforcement and the Judicial System will work together. 

The possible challenges of establishing such a Commission, for example as a result of Scotland’s devolution limitations or lack of resourcing.

Whether the functions and objectives could be carried out by a single or (collaboratively) by multiple organisations.

Whether the functions of the proposed Commission could be carried out by an existing organisation(s). 

How the explanatory notes can best outline the aim of the Commission, and policy gap to be addressed by this recommendation.

Civil law provisions to: (1) establish civil liability for perpetrators of conversion practice; and (2) allow survivors and victims access to redress and compensation. 

Discussion on the commitment to protect existing freedoms

The group discussed:

  • the way in which conversion practices infringe the human rights of individuals
  • conversion practices can infringe on the right to freedom from torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment (Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR))
  • conversion practices violate the rights of the child to be free from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury, or abuse
  • whether a ban on conversion practices infringes on existing rights such as the right to freedom of religion (Article 9, ECHR) and the right to freedom of expression (Article 10, ECHR).
  • the support for an end to conversion practices received from some religious organisations such as the Church of Scotland.

LGBTI+ People of Colour and Minority Ethnic faith experiences of conversion practices

The group discussed:

The need to acknowledge intersectionality and how this impacts on experiences of survivors.

The need to acknowledge that the experience of minority ethnic survivors will be different to that of white survivors.

Having safe guarding protection for people who report conversion practices.

The importance of acknowledging racial biases that might affect the support received by survivors and the effects of institutional racism, especially in criminal law provisions.

Having a civil response scheme that acknowledges the challenges of survivors from minority ethnic backgrounds.

Providing resources in languages other than English to ensure accessibility.

Making sure minority ethnic voices are heard.

The lack of organisations that represent people of colour and Minority Ethnic LGBTI communities in Scotland.

Attendees also discussed the explanatory notes that will accompany the final report and recommendation to further explain and contextualise the recommendations and the thinking of the EAG.

They also discussed the awareness raising and capacity building that will be required to make sure people are aware of the legal ban on conversion practices in Scotland, their rights, and access to support and restitution. 

Next meeting focus

The Group discussed the next steps which included pulling together the final version of the report and recommendations to be submitted to Ministers and to be published on the Scottish Government webpage.

Any other business

The Chair thanked the EAG members for their time, dedication and expertise over the past months and hoped to work with them again in the future as the work to end conversion practices in Scotland continues.


Secretariat to send final version of report and recommendations to all members to review, comment and agree before it is sent to Ministers.

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