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Independence is the best guarantor of equal rights for all of our citizens

My aspiration for an independent Scotland is for a country that is fair, just and supportive to all who call it home, and which extends a hand of friendship to those in need across the world.

That is why it has been heartening to see that the draft constitution, published earlier this week, has proved again that this Scottish Government, and the Scottish Parliament at large, share my belief that equal treatment for everyone, enshrined in law, is a crucial cornerstone of our nation going forward.

If passed after a Yes vote, this draft constitution would see Scotland become the seventh country in the world - joining Bolivia, Fiji, Kosovo, Portugal, South Africa and Sweden - with a specific mention of the equal rights for all citizens regardless of their sexual orientation in their state user manuals.

I've heard Better Together LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) claim that one of the best reasons to stay in the UK is to have a voice articulating a supportive vision to LGBT people worldwide and that the UK could do this better than Scotland could. I'm not sure this rhetoric matches the reality.

How supportive can the UK Government claim to be to our LGBT friends fleeing persecution who then meet an asylum system designed to thwart at every turn?

A report by the Home Affairs Select Committee found that LGBT asylum seekers in the UK are being asked to prove their sexuality by answering questions about their sexual history, what gay clubs they've visited, what tube stations they'd take to get there and what Pride marches they've attended. In some cases people are submitting photographic and video evidence of personal sexual activity to prove they are gay.

Others are being told to go back to their country of origin or re-join their community and stay in the closet to live in fear for the rest of their lives. On more than one occasion recently, the Court of Session has had to intervene to stop the UK Government deporting asylum seekers whose lives were in danger should they arrive back at their country of origin.

This week, the Scottish Parliament debated a motion celebrating Refugee Week and making a commitment to a humane asylum system post-independence. I completely agree that decisions about asylum should be made by an independent body on a case-by-case basis, applying the rule of law, equality, fairness and social responsibility. I can't imagine a similar motion being debated so positively at Westminster.

This dichotomy between thinking at Westminster and Holyrood is one of the main reasons I want Scotland to have the power over these issues. I believe this is an area where, if we had the power, our positive rhetoric would match anything any Scottish Government introduced.

As we in Yes LGBT join together in the coming weeks to celebrate Pride and the recent passing of equal marriage, we never lose sight of how fortunate we are to live in a country where we have these rights.

This is not shared by most of our LGBT friends and allies around the world. Distance cannot allow us to abdicate our responsibility to help in the fight for human rights wherever breaches occur. We cannot think inaction is OK because the challenge we face on a global scare to advance LGBT rights is insurmountable. It isn't.

It used to be punishable by death to be gay in the UK, and Scotland only decriminalised homosexuality in 1980. This global struggle is a marathon, not a sprint. But we are far closer to the end than the beginning.

And an independent Scotland, constitutionally mandated to stand up for human rights and equality, with a commitment to nuclear disarmament and sovereignty lying with the people, which introduces a fair and socially responsible asylum system, will be an instrumental partner in the fight for LGBT equality worldwide.

That is surely worth voting Yes for on September 18.

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Local government

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