About an hour go the UK Government's Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs recommended that the lifetime ban on gay men donating blood should be rescinded. What will the FM do in Scotland to respond to the report?Alex Salmond confirmed that the Scottish Government would be accepting the recommendations with the protections the committee suggested be put in place, which are, effectively, that only those men who have not had sex with other men within the last 12 months should be allowed to give blood.
Willie made clear that this wasn't the end of the road:
"This isn't the full equality which many of us have campaigned for but it is a start. Similar bans have been relaxed in countries like Australia, South Africa Japan and Sweden and the Scottish Bloood Transfusion Service has committed to finding an extra 65000 donors in the next year. The sooner this change is adopted the sooner the service can add to the 100,000 patients it helps with blood transfusions each year and save lives. Will the First Minister personally promote this change and encourage more people to donate blood whatever their sexuality?"
The First Minister didn't seem particularly comfortable talking about this issue to be honest and spent most of his answer talking about safety.
It still doesn't seem right to me that even with these changes I as a heterosexual woman could sleep with a whole stack of men and my blood would be welcome, while a man who's been in a faithful same sex relationship for all his life can't. The conclusions of the committee do seem overly cautious. It shows that there is still debate to be had on this issue and that the motion on ending the blood ban to be discussed at Liberal Democrat conference is still relevant. It calls for
......blood donations to be subject to the most thorough and advanced screening available to ensure minimal risk of transfusion-transmitted infections.
Conference resolves to urge the Government to end the outright ban on the MSM group from donating blood; to end the twelve month deferral on female partners of that group; and subsequently to work with medical experts and organisations to ensure adequate criteria and restrictions are put in place that reflect the risk posed by the behaviour of each individual
One of the things I like about Willie is that his commitment to equality is so strong - and he lives out his values. When he was MP for Dunfermline, a lap dancing club opened up in the town (which has, thankfully, now closed) and he was vociferous in his condemnation, saying:
This exploitation of women has no place in a modern outward looking city which is the home of Queen Margaret. I want the owners to recognise that they are not welcome here and should pack up and go home."If, like me, you missed First Minister's Questions live and forgot to record it, you can watch it here.