SCOTLAND has lost its mantle as leader of the European league table of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex equality laws and policies.

The LGBTI table is now topped by Malta, which has risen to first place after introducing new laws protecting the rights of trans and intersex people, with Scotland now in second place.

The table is published as part of Rainbow Europe 2017, an annual review by European LGBTI equality organisation ILGA-Europe.

Its publication marks International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia - IDAHOBIT - marked on May 17.

Tim Hopkins, director of national Scottish LGBTI equality charity the Equality Network, said: “We congratulate the government and equality activists in Malta for introducing the best laws in Europe to protect trans and intersex people.

"The Scottish Government have promised to bring Scotland’s laws in this area up to international best practice during the 2016-21 parliamentary session, and to consult on this later this year.

"Those changes would put Scotland back in contention for the top spot.”

He continued: “The UK as a whole also falls short of best practice in two reserved areas: equality law and asylum. During this Westminster election campaign, we are calling on all parties to commit to amend equality law to fully protect trans and intersex people, and to ensure that people fleeing persecution because they are LGBTI can find asylum here.”

The UK as a whole is now in fourth place on behind Norway.

The Equality Network said the UK composite score is pulled down by the lack of equal marriage law in Northern Ireland.