EQUALITY campaigners have called for an end to "outdated and discriminatory" rules which ban gay and bisexual men from donating blood.

Advocates for LGBT+ rights want the blood transfusion service to axe the restriction that prevents men from giving blood if they have had sex with another man in the previous 12 months. They are petitioning MSPs that the blanket ban discriminates against people on the basis on sexual orientation, not sexual behaviour, and propose replacing it with individual risk assessments for HIV and other blood-borne diseases. They stress heterosexual people who have unprotected sex are not excluded under the current system.

If successful, Scotland would be the first country in the UK to scrap the rule.

Ali Hudson, LGBT+ campaign representative from NUS Scotland, told Holyrood's Petitions Commitee that potential donors should be judged on their behaviour, not sexuality.

They said: "Those whose behaviours are genuinely risky but who are not LGBT+ are passing under the radar whilst LBGT people who are potentially low risk based on their own individual behaviours are being prevented from giving blood based essentially on a statistical prevalence that is outdated and based mostly on prejudice rather than science and logic."

A lifetime ban on gay men donating blood was introduced across the UK during the HIV crisis in the 1980s, but was replaced by the one-year rule in England, Scotland and Wales in November 2011, and in Northern Ireland last year.

Catherine Somerville, campaigns manager for Stonewall Scotland, said it supported "fairer" blood donation.

She said: “Currently, gay and bi men who have not engaged in high-risk sexual behaviour cannot give blood if they’ve had sex in the past year. This is despite the fact that straight people who may engage in risky behaviour are able to donate.”

MSPs agreed to write to the Scottish Government on the issue as well as the UK Standing Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs (SaBTO), which is currently undertaking a review.

It comes as HIV diagnoses in Scotland last year fell to their lowest level in 13 years.

Dr Moira Carter, associate director for the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service said she welcomed the debate. However, she stressed that the current restrictions were based on "risk not sexual orientation", with the one-year ban also applying to anyone who had had sex with an intravenous drug user or with someone from countries with high HIV prevalence. She added: “We would welcome a move towards more individualised risk assessments if this is recommended by SaBTO, however this would be complex and SaBTO will need to consider if it’s feasible to do this, based upon sound evidence. Additionally, before changing the mechanism for donor selection, it’s important we work with SaBTO to fully assess the impact and risks associated with this to ensure that the quality and safety of Scotland’s blood supply isn’t jeopardised in any way.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Health Secretary Shona Robison wrote late last year to the independent expert Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs (SaBTO), to ask them to examine, as part of their current review, whether an individualised assessment system can be developed as opposed to the current deferral system. We look forward to hearing their conclusions in the coming months.”