First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has called for all those attending the World Cup to show their “solidarity” with the LGBT+ community.
The contest kicks off this weekend in Qatar – where homosexuality is still illegal and anyone found participating in same-sex sexual activity can be punished with up to seven years in prison.
With concerns also having being raised about the country’s treatment of migrant workers, Ms Sturgeon was asked if Scottish Football Association (SFA) officials should be going to the event.
Scottish Labour’s Paul O’Kane said many gay football fans, and organisations such as the Scottish Trades Union Congress, had “voiced concern and disapproval about this World Cup” and have called on the SFA to think again.
Raising the issue at First Minister’s Questions in the Scottish Parliament, the Labour MSP said: “The SFA has said it is ‘supportive of all measures to improve human rights conditions in Qatar’.
“But does our First Minister believe our football governing body attending this World Cup can send any other message other than a validation of the human rights record of Qatar, and what message does she think it sends particularly to LGBT+ people in Scotland?”
Ms Sturgeon told him: “As the World Cup gets under way later this week in Qatar I think it is a really important moment for all of us, regardless of party, regardless of anything else that might divide us, to stand in solidarity with the LGBT+ community, in Scotland, in the UK, in Europe and right across the world.
“And I hope that will unite all of us.”
She was clear that the attendance of SFA officials is a matter for the sporting body, saying “governments should not intervene” in these decisions.
But she added: “I would certainly hope anybody attending the World Cup in Qatar in any capacity would take the opportunity to express solidarity with the LGBT+ community.
“I think that is what is even more important over the next few weeks than sport, that we take the opportunity to stand up for human rights and the dignity of those in that community and that we unite around that sentiment today and right throughout the period of the competition in Qatar.”