Ending Conversion Practices Expert Advisory Group: terms of reference

Terms of reference for the expert advisory group.


Strategic context

The Scottish Government recognises the need to end conversion practices in Scotland. They are harmful, discriminatory, and have no place in our society. 

A commitment was made in the 2021-22 Programme for Government to ‘protect LGBT people from harm by banning promotion and practice of conversion therapy, bringing forward legislation that is as comprehensive as possible within devolved powers by the end of 2023, if UK Government proposals do not go far enough.’ This commitment was also mirrored in the Bute House Agreement.

To drive this work forward the Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing, and Local Government announced the establishment of this Expert Advisory Group on Ending Conversion Practices on 17 November 2021.

Purpose

The Group’s purpose will be to consider and advise on proposed actions to ban conversion practices in Scotland. Its scope will be to explore both legislative and non-legislative measures, which would ensure protection and support is given to those who need it, and freedoms – including freedoms of speech, religion, and belief – are safeguarded. 

The Group will consider the Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice (EHRCJ) Committee report on the petition to End Conversion Therapy and use this as a starting point for discussion. 

The Group will also consider other research and evidence from a wide range of sources, including the responses to the recent UK government consultation on ending conversion practices, if received prior or during the working Group’s tenure, and a review of the legislative measures taken by foreign jurisdictions.

The Group is  time-limited and its output will be evidence based recommendations – legislative and non-legislative - to Scottish Ministers to inform the Scottish Government’s approach to ending conversion practices. These will be delivered during the Summer following the final meeting of the Group. 

Remit and function

The Expert Advisory Group will have the following main functions:

  • recommend what practices should be prohibited, or trigger other legal interventions, and considering a definition of conversion practices 
  • drawing together existing data and evidence on conversion practices, including international practice
  • advising on potential actions to end conversion practices
  • advising on support for victims and survivors
  • advising on aligning any ban with commitments to protect freedom of expression and freedom of religion, in line with existing legislation
  • advising on non-legislative measures which should be brought forward to protect and support victims
  • advising on how mental health services, religious bodies, services for children and young people, (including Education), and other professionals should be supported to provide appropriate services to people seeking help and advice in relation to their sexual orientation or gender identity
  • carrying out other tasks that may reasonably be required

Membership

The Group is not established on a statutory basis. It is therefore not subject to the formal public appointments process and the requirements of the Code of Practice for Ministerial Appointments to Public Bodies in Scotland. Members are appointed by Scottish Ministers.

The Group’s membership includes individuals who are experts in their field from: LGBTI organisations; faith and belief organisations and communities; mental health; the law; human rights; academia; and people with personal lived experience of conversion practices. 

The Group will be chaired by Nick Bland, Deputy Director for Equality and Inclusion at the Scottish Government.

Secretariat will be provided by the Equality and Inclusion Division.

Scottish Government officials will be invited to attend meetings, in a listening capacity, depending on the meeting agenda and relevance to their policy area. 

Meetings will be attended by named members only. Substitutes will usually not be accepted, apart from by prior agreement with the Chair.

Additional expertise may be sought from others relating to specific elements of the Group’s work. However, they will not be full members and their participation will be made public via published minutes.

Any expenses such as travel and subsistence will be paid at normal Scottish Ministers’ rates, unless this is already covered by attendees regular working arrangements.

Meetings and reporting structure

The Group will initially meet by virtual means, with consideration given to in-person meetings in future. The initial meeting will be held on 31 March with each subsequent meeting taking place around every three weeks, depending on the availability of members.

The Group discussions will be minuted although input will not be attributed to individuals. Agendas and supporting papers will be circulated to the Group a week prior to each meeting. Draft minutes will be circulated no more than a week after meetings have taken place. 

The Group will deliver recommendations to Scottish Ministers on changes required to law, policy or practice to end conversion practices in Scotland. 

Decision making will be as far as possible by consensus, or by majority if consensus is not reached. An attendance of 75% will be considered quorate.

Responsibilities 

In addition to attending meetings, members may be expected to obtain feedback from their organisations or wider stakeholder networks in order to progress the work of the Group. Members should expect that some of this work could take place outwith meetings.

There will be flexibility for the Group to influence the agenda of meetings, but it will focus on delivering the key functions. 

Working environment 

The success of the Group will depend upon mutual trust and respect and may, at times, require a degree of sensitivity around discussions in seeking to arrive at a consensus. Open and frank discussion will be encouraged and supported.

In order to support this open environment, the use of social media or other external communications in relation to the work of the Group will not be permitted without the consensus of the Group.

Safeguarding and ensuring safe spaces

The Group consists of individuals from diverse backgrounds and experiences. The Group is intended to be a space where members feel safe, respected, heard and able to participate fully.

To protect members the meeting minutes will be anonymised and comments will not attributed to particular individuals or organisations unless they are comfortable being noted.

The Secretariat will support members of the Group as required, in particular those with lived experience of conversion practices. 

Transparency and information sharing

To ensure transparency, Group minutes, Terms of Reference, and other relevant papers will be published on the Scottish Government website. 

Members remain free to express views which differ from the conclusions reached collectively by the Group and are encouraged to contribute actively to wider debate in relation to the realisation of ending Conversion Practices in Scotland.  Organisations represented on the Group are similarly free to adopt a position which differs from that of the Group and to contribute to wider debate.

The Secretariat will ensure that requests for information are dealt with in accordance with the requirements of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA) and the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004 (EIRs).  In order to assist in ensuring that requests can be responded to accurately and timeously, Group members are asked to ensure that the Secretariat is copied in to all formal correspondence and exchanges of information. 

Equality and Inclusion Division

April 2022

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