CAMPAIGNERS are calling for "conversion therapy" for LGBT people to be banned in Scotland.

They said the widely discredited practice – which seeks to change someone's sexuality or gender identity – is a "risk to public health" and should be made a criminal offence.

It comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson called conversion therapy "absolutely abhorrent" and said the UK Government will bring forward plans to ban it.

Stars such as Sir Elton John have also recently backed calls to outlaw it.

A petition has now been lodged in Holyrood calling on the Scottish Government to take action, attracting thousands of signatures and support from high-profile LGBT organisations.

Tristan Gray, one of those named on the petition, said: "We only discovered that it's not already illegal quite recently, and we were quite shocked by it."

The Scottish Government said conversion therapy is "unethical, harmful and has no place in Scotland". 

However, it said the legislative timetable for the current parliamentary session "is currently fully committed".

It said it "fully support moves by the UK Government to end conversion therapy" and will engage with officials on devolved and reserved responsibilities.

Gray, who is on the Scottish Greens' policy committee, said conversion therapy is "putting someone through a process that would erase their LGBT identity". 

He pointed to moves to ban it in Canada, where officials have defined it as seeking "to change an individual’s sexual orientation to heterosexual, to repress or reduce non-heterosexual attraction or sexual behaviours, or to change an individual’s gender identity to match the sex they were assigned at birth".

The Canadian legislation, which was introduced earlier this year, proposes five new criminal offences related to conversion therapy. 

These include causing a minor to undergo conversion therapy, causing a person to undergo it against their will and profiting from or advertising conversion therapy.

The Holyrood petitioners insist the practice has "damaged generations of LGBT+ young people and adults and continues to do so". 

They quoted a report from the charity Stonewall, which found 10 per cent of health and care staff had witnessed colleagues expressing the view that lesbian, gay and bisexual people can be “cured” of their sexual orientation.

They also referenced a survey by the Ozanne Foundation, which works with religious organisations to eliminate discrimination based on sexuality or gender. 

This found 20.7% of respondents had “been advised to consider attempts to change” their sexual orientation and just over one in seven (14.9%) had “voluntarily considered” it.

The petitioners said: "Concerningly, 3.5% of LGBT+ respondents had 'been forced to go through attempts to change' their sexual orientation."

Almost two-thirds, 58.8%, had "suffered from mental health issues" as a result of the conversion therapy, including nearly a third who said they had attempted suicide.

The Holyrood petition notes: "These responses clearly show that there is a significant public health case for banning conversion therapy. 

"The experiences of those who were put through this practice show that enforcing this ban should fall under criminal law

"Both of these areas fall within the devolved powers of the Scottish Parliament."

It said the UK Government has yet to act despite committing to end the practice years ago.

It added: "Given this information, it is clear that conversion therapy is a risk to public health, especially the mental health of vulnerable young adults and children. 

"There is broad support for its criminalisation by those who have been subjected to it, and, as healthcare and criminal justice matter, we believe it to be within the scope of the Scottish Government’s powers to ensure this practice is brought to an end."

Gray raised concerns the UK plans will be kicked into the long grass. 

The 29-year-old said: "I think it should fall under criminal law, and that is something that is  shared by people who have undergone it. 

"People who have been through conversion therapy overwhelmingly support it being banned, and I think half of them support it being an area for criminal law.

"I think they are the people who should be listened to on this.

"People who have been subjected to conversion therapy should be the people we listen to most.

"I think it should come down under criminal law, and I think the justification for that partly includes it being a public health issue."

He said it is an issue that should gain "universal support" from Scotland's political parties.

Jordan Daly, co-founder of Time for Inclusive Education (TIE), a charity working to address anti-LGBT bullying in schools, is one of those backing the petition. 

He said: “Conversion or 'reparative' therapies should have been outlawed a long time ago, and practices which falsely claim to 'change', 'cure' or 'repair' an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression have been shown time and again to be emotionally and psychologically traumatic on those who have experienced and survived such programs."

He said practices which rely on "using emotionally exploitative tactics to encourage feelings of shame and repression in individuals are active in Scotland right now".

He added: "We support this petition and the efforts of campaigners to continue raising awareness about the existence of dangerous and shameful practices in our country. 

"Scotland has an opportunity to lead the UK here, and ensure that no other LGBT person, young or old, experiences this – ministers and parliamentarians should not delay in taking it.”

SNP equalities minister Christina McKelvie said: “We do not support or advocate the practice of conversion therapy. 

"It is unethical, harmful and has no place in Scotland. 

"We fully support moves by the UK Government to end conversion therapy, and are engaging with them as they develop proposals.
“The legislative timetable for the current parliamentary session is currently fully committed. 

"We are continuing to engage with officials in the UK Government on their thinking as it develops, and this will include consideration of devolved and reserved responsibilities as they relate to this practice.”