The Scottish Government has published proposals for a ban on conversion therapy as part of a consultation.

The 86-page document, released on Tuesday, detailed ministers' plans to criminalise the practice, which sees people attempt to change or suppress the gender identity or sexual orientation of another person.

The proposals have raised concerns by some, including in the religious community, who fear attempts to counsel people struggling with their identity could be seen as conversion therapy.

READ MORE: SNP: Party going through late adolescence since deal with Greens

However, they were welcomed by the SNP's partners in government the Scottish Greens which said conversion therapy was "abusive and coercive" and had no place in modern Scotland.

The publication of the consultation on Tuesday is a key stage on the way to delivering the ban which was a central pledge of the Bute House Agreement that brought the Scottish Greens into government in 2021.

The Catholic Church in Scotland has said the law could create a "chilling effect".

However, the proposals claim any law would not include "non-directive and ethical guidance and support to a person who might be questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity or experiencing conflict or distress, whether that is provided by a healthcare practitioner, a family member, or a religious leader".

READ MORE: What is conversion therapy? Explained in five minutes

Such a provision appears to acknowledge the right of parents to speak freely to their children about sexual and gender identity issues. SNP MSP Fergus Ewing, a prominent critic of the Scottish Greens and their role in government, had warned that a ban could impinge on parents' rights.

The law would also distinguish between an attempt to change someone's gender identity or sexual orientation and the expression of "general statements of belief or opinion", while emphasis will be placed on the intent to cause harm to a person and the actual causing of harm through a conversion practice.

The law would create new criminal offences of engaging in conversion practice, which can include both providing such a service and engaging in a course of coercive behaviour - as well as taking a person out of Scotland to engage in conversion practices.

A statutory aggravation, which can be placed on another charge such as assault, will also be created, as well as the provision of civil protection orders.

Prosecutors will have to prove anyone engaging in conversion practices intended to change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity and that the practices or services caused physical or psychological harm to the victim.

The document said those accused would have a defence if their actions could be proven to be "reasonable in the particular circumstances".

The Herald: Equalities minister Emma Roddick

Equalities minister Emma Roddick, pictured above, said: "Conversion practices, which aim to change or suppress a person's sexual orientation or gender identity, are damaging and destructive acts that violate people's human rights.

"Sadly, these practices still happen today and they have absolutely no place in Scotland.

"In taking forward our commitment to ban conversion practices we are leading the way in the UK and joining the growing list of countries acting to address this harm.

"The consultation responses we receive will help us to further consider those measures we can take to stop the harm of conversion practices and protect those at risk while ensuring that freedoms, including freedoms of speech, religion, and belief, are safeguarded."

A spokesperson for the Catholic Church said: "While the Church supports legislation which protects people from physical and verbal abuse, a fundamental pillar of any free society is that the state recognises and respects the right of religious bodies and organisations to be free to teach the fullness of their beliefs and to support, through prayer, counsel and other pastoral means, their members who wish to live in accordance with those beliefs.

"We would urge the Scottish Government not to criminalise mainstream, religious, pastoral care; parental guidance; and medical or other professional intervention relating to sexual orientation; which is not approved by the State as acceptable.

"The worrying lack of clarity about what is meant by the term conversion practices could create a chilling effect and may criminalise advice or opinion given in good faith."

The Scottish Greens' equality spokesperson Maggie Chapman said: “This is an important day for the rights of LGBTQIA+ people in Scotland. Conversion practices are not therapy. They are abusive and coercive. They are a form of violence that has no place in a modern or progressive Scotland, or anywhere, for that matter.

“The UK government appears to have reneged on its commitment to deliver a ban of any kind, let alone the watertight one that is so necessary. 

“Far too many people have suffered for far too long. Nobody should be told there is something wrong with them or be forced to be ashamed of who they are, just because of their identity. 

“The Scotland I want to see is one where everybody can live safely and freely as the people they really are. That cannot happen as long as conversion practices are still taking place.”

The consultation has also been welcomed by people with personal experience of conversion practices, including Scottish Green councillor Blair Anderson, who was a member of the Scottish Government’s Expert Advisory Group on Ending Conversion Practices.

Cllr Anderson said: “What was done to me was wrong, and I am far from the only person who has been abused in this way. So-called conversion therapy is being done in households and communities across Scotland. Today's consultation is a key step towards ending these awful practices for good.

“It is a scary time for the LGBTQ+ community, with a resurgence in hate crimes and abuse against our trans siblings in particular. We have seen a brutal and reactionary culture war that politicians and parts of the media have knowingly stoked and encouraged. 

“By banning conversion therapy we can take a key step for equality and towards tackling the pain and the prejudice that so many have had inflicted on them.”

The consultation will close on April 2.