Normal parental guidance and prayer may fall foul of proposed legislation to prohibit conversion therapy practices in Scotland, solicitors have warned.

A submission to the Scottish Government from the Law Society of Scotland says a "more precise" approach should be taken using "clear and meticulously drafted" wording.

Writing in response to a consultation paper on the proposal, the professional body for solicitors says normal forms of therapy such as cognitive behavioural therapy could be criminalised.

The submission, with input from Law Society committees covering public policy, criminal law, family law and human rights law, warns the definition of conversion therapy could include “praying with anyone about their sexual ethics or sexual behaviour, or offering counselling on such issues”.

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The Convener of the Law Society’s Public Policy Committee, John Mulholland, said: “We support this policy’s aims around conversion practices that cause harm and distress to people because of fundamental aspects of who they are, but believe this draft legislation is too broad.

“New laws, particularly criminal legislation, must be shown to be necessary and a fair and reasonable means of addressing a clearly identified problem. Such laws must be clear and meticulously drafted to ensure that innocent conduct is not criminalised.

“This proposed legislation currently does not meet these fundamental requirements, and significant refinement is needed so it doesn’t capture circumstances which should be beyond legal reproach. For example, we believe it could apply to common forms of therapy such as cognitive behavioural therapy.

“We are supportive of the proposed approach to use a combination of criminal and civil measures to target harmful conversion practices, but believe the focus should be on using civil provisions in the first instance.”

The consultation has been launched to progress the Scottish Government’s 2022 commitment to introducing a Bill to end conversion practices, including those related to both sexual orientation and gender identity.

Conversion therapy is the practice of trying to stop or suppress someone from being gay, or from identifying as a gender different to their sex.

Extreme forms include exorcism and physical violence but it can also include deprivation of food or prayer.

There have been concerns raised that normal parental controls would be criminalised and, following a backlash, the Scottish Government moved to counter this.

The government consultation says “general parental direction or guidance” would not fall under the definition of conversion therapy. However, the Law Society submission counters this, saying that “we have doubts on whether this is reflected in the definition itself”.

Maggie Chapman, Scottish Green Party MSP, said she was "pleased" the Law Society recognises the need to ban cruel and abusive practices and welcomed the submission.

She added: "One of the purposes of the consultation process is to gather views and suggestions to ensure the legislation is as robust and watertight as it can be.

"I know that the Law Society’s response will be read and considered carefully, as will all the responses received.

"Conversion practices have no place in a modern or progressive Scotland. They ruin lives."

The Law Society of Scotland's intervention came as the charity that successfully challenged the SNP’s named person scheme said it would mount a new legal battle over the plans.

The Christian Institute said the Scottish Government proposals provided campaigners against conversion practices with a “thought crime”.

The group said it was ready to launch a petition for judicial review if Holyrood passes the law and “to challenge it all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary”.

Ms Chapman added: "Nobody should be told that they are not good enough, or that they need to change who they are, because of their sexual orientation or their gender identity.

"Too many people have suffered for too long. Our Parliament has the opportunity to end this injustice and ban conversion practices, as other countries already have.

"I hope that we take it."