SCOTLAND would be rated as the most gay-friendly and tolerant nation in Europe if it was separate from the rest of the UK, new research has found.

A survey measuring equality and human rights found that Scotland would top a European league table after meeting 90 per cent of the criteria laid down by campaigning group ILGA-Europe.

The Rainbow Index, which is compiled each year, placed the UK as a whole third on 81 per cent, mostly because of Northern Ireland's refusal to adopt same sex marriage laws.

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However, the report also found that more needed to be done to achieve full equality, such as better legislation to protect the rights of intersex people.

The index measures the impact of laws and policies on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people over six categories: equality and non-discrimination, family, bias motivated speech or violence, legal gender recognition, freedom of assembly, association and expression, and asylum.

A number of anti-discrimination laws were brought into force to protect the rights of LGBT people in Scotland in 2010, while same sex marriage was legalised in 2014.

Scotland was judged to have a slightly better law and policy on intersex equality than the rest of the UK, while same sex couples are allowed to adopt children and stepchildren.

Following last week’s election, the Scottish Parliament now has the highest level of openly LGB members (7.8 per cent) in the world.

Ten of the 129 MSPs are openly lesbian, gay or bisexual, compared to the second highest the Netherlands, where 7.3 per cent members openly LGB.

Two of the main party leaders, Conservative Ruth Davidson and Labour's Kezia Dugdale, are openly gay while the Green Party's Patrick Harvie is bisexual.

READ MORE: Herald View: Welcome progress on LGBTI equality

Away from Holyrood, David Coburn, the country's UKIP member of the European Parliament, is open about his homosexuality while David Mundell, Scotland only Tory MP, also recently came out as gay.

Tim Hopkins, Director of the Equality Network, called on all political parties to safeguard the rights of minority groups.

He said: “All the parties elected to the new Scottish Parliament session had manifesto commitments to review and reform Scotland’s laws on transgender people.

"The SNP, Labour, Greens and LibDems - that’s 98 of the Parliament’s 129 MSPs - were elected on more specific manifesto commitments that would bring our trans laws up to international best practice.

"If the Scottish Government and Parliament deliver on those commitments, and also make progress on intersex equality, Scotland will retain its place amongst the standard bearers for LGBTI equality.”

Malta, which has brought in a number of LGBTI laws into place during the past year, was placed top of the list, while Belgium was in second place.

ILGA-Europe Executive Director Evelyne Paradis said: “The countries who are on this upward curve tend to be the ones who have protected people from discrimination on grounds of gender identity, or legislated to protect the bodily integrity of intersex people and who have ingrained this change in everyday measures such as equality action plans.”