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Scotland Launches Equality Blitz to Coincide With the Commonwealth Games

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Slap-bang in the middle of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, the Scottish government has launched an astonishing blizzard of equality initiatives. Mere coincidence? Or is it an attempt to send an equal rights message to Games visitors and to the 80% of Commonwealth countries where discrimination is rife?

The latest initiative is the One Scotland campaign, with its Equal Scotland theme spelled out in high-profile billboards across the country.

This campaign includes commitments to equality based on age, disability, gender, race, religion or belief - and sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status.

One Scotland follows a series of statements and actions in recent days by the leader of the Scottish government, First Minister Alex Salmond, in support of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) equality.

His initiatives on LGBTI rights are especially significant, given that 42 of the 53 Commonwealth member states criminalise same-sex relationships, with penalties ranging up to life imprisonment and even execution in parts of Nigeria and Pakistan. There is also widespread discrimination and mob violence in these countries.

Member states such as Nigeria, Cameroon, Uganda, India and Brunei have all intensified their anti-LGBI repression in recent months. They are defying the Commonwealth Charter, which supposedly guarantees equal rights and non-discrimination to all citizens.

To show its support for LGBTI people throughout the Commonwealth, the Scottish government has funded a LGBTI Pride House in Glasgow. Salmond made a personal visit to express his support for LGBTI equality in Scotland and throughout the Commonwealth.

During his visit, the First Minister met Rainbow Families and warmly embraced same-sex couples and their children.

Earlier, there was the ground-breaking, high-visibility gay kiss during opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games, which was televised to tens of millions of people across the member states.

In addition, the LGBTI rainbow flag is being flown from Scottish government headquarters, St Andrew's House, for the duration of the Games.

Not even the London or UK governments managed to do this during the 2012 Olympics. Glasgow's gone one better than London. It sends a valued message of solidarity to LGBTI people throughout the Commonwealth.

In an exclusive video interview at Pride House with the Scottish LGBTI news and community website, KaleidoScot, Salmond reiterated his government's commitment to LGBTI equality.

Salmond's initiatives follow a personal appeal for him to speak out against homophobia during the Commonwealth Games, made by the Peter Tatchell Foundation.

When we made this appeal to the First Minister last week we had no idea whether he or his government would respond. In fact, they've exceeded our expectations.

It is amazing and praiseworthy that the Scottish government has deliberately launched its pro-equality One Scotland campaign in the middle of the Commonwealth Games - and that Alex Salmond has repeatedly made such clear, strong personal commitments to LGBTI human rights.

This sends an implicit rebuke to the 42 Commonwealth countries that do not treat their LGBTI citizens equally. It signals to LGBTI people throughout the Commonwealth that Glasgow 2014 and the Scottish government are on their side. I can think of no other Commonwealth or Olympic Games host government that has done anything comparable.

Whatever people think about Alex Salmond and the push for Scottish independence, his statement and actions are the most forthright and supportive on LGBTI equality by any leader of any host nation during a major international sporting event.

Neither David Cameron nor Boris Johnson did anything similar during the London Olympics. This is a unique, unprecedented initiative for which Alex Salmond and the Scottish government deserve full credit and commendation.

For LGBTI communities in the 42 Commonwealth countries where homosexuality is still criminalised, the Scottish government's pro-LGBTI stance means a lot. It will comfort them and, I hope, discomfort their homophobic governments. It demonstrates Scotland's commitment to a truly equal and inclusive Games. Bravo!

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