Local MSP leads call for blood donation ban to be lifted for gay and bisexual men

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Regulations banning gay and bisexual men from donating blood have been condemned by parliamentarians, led by Strathkelvin and Bearsden MSP Rona Mackay.

Ms Mackay headed a debate in the Scottish Parliament calling current rules “archaic” and “discriminatory” on Tuesday, November 29.

Members from Labour, Tories and Greens backed Ms Mackay’s calls to drop the 12-month sexual abstention rule on men who have sex with men donating blood in Scotland.

The MSPs speaking out against the regulation included Rona Mackay, Christina McKelvie, Colin Smyth, Miles Briggs and Jamie Greene. Maureen Watt, minister for mental health, stood in for health minister Aileen Campbell MSP and defended the government’s current policy.

Administrations in the United Kingdom currently follow guidance from the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs (SaBTO).

Ms Mackay, the MSP for Strathkelvin and Bearsden, said: “I was proud to lead the debate into lifting this discriminatory ban for men who have sex with men donating blood in Scotland.

“This regulation unfairly targets sexual orientation of gay and bisexual men instead of sexual behaviours.

“Of course, there must be stringent donor selection criteria aimed at protecting both donors and recipients of blood transfusions, no one would ever argue otherwise, but I believe that these should not be based on sexual orientation, but on participation in high-risk behaviour.

“The debate was about equality and inclusion and for many gay men, a 12-month deferral is effectively a lifetime deferral.

“Even if we lowered the deferral period to a three-month deferral, this is still effectively a lifetime ban on MSM couples in stable, loving relationships.

“This is not equal, or inclusive. Let’s go further, Scotland – end this inequality now.”