Some gay Scots links:
July 16, 2000
Gays revitalise a bit of urban rough in Glasgow
They are the new village people. Gay residents have formed a tartan Greenwich village in the toughest part of Glasgow’s East End, writes Stephen McGinty.
Homosexuals are snapping up property in Homes for the Future, the modernist housing development that was the flagship of Glasgow’s year as City of Architecture in 1999. The £4m enclave hoped to attract middle-class families to regenerate the Gallowgate next to Glasgow Green. The area is best known as the home of the Barras market and pubs like The Saracen’s Head, where locals joke that if somebody threw a petrol bomb, customers would drink it. The artist Peter Howson used local dossers as models in his macho paintings.
Now the development in the meanest part of the city has been tagged Queensland by the gay community. Concerns about schools and drugs meant it had little appeal for professionals with young children. Instead many of the 100 homes attracted gay professionals drawn by the red cherrywood floors, fitted kitchens by Smeg and bathrooms made from Carrara marble as well as extras such as expansive wooden decks and balconies. One penthouse has a retractable roof and another flat has an interior by Anne McKevitt of the BBC’s Home Front. Neil Baxter, a design consultant, bought a flat last year with his boyfriend Josh in the wedding cake-shaped building designed by Ushida Findlay, a Scottish/Japanese partnership based in Tokyo. Baxter believes the pink pound will benefit the East End. “The area is pretty edgy. Gays are a good catalyst — they are bringing money in. Most gay couples have a reasonable disposable income.
It is the double-income-no-kids idea.” Another new arrival is Derek Ogg, the leading QC and human rights campaigner. He asked a court police officer about the area before buying his stylish three-floor flat with roof garden. He was advised to buy immediately: “You’ll not be able to afford it in five years.” Ogg’s cutting-edge apartment will soon feature in the style magazine Wallpaper. Ogg says gays have helped create a friendly atmosphere. “In many ways, for all its high-tech look, it’s very old-fashioned. “As the houses look onto a square there is a lot of ‘hanging-oot’, with people leaning out their windows and chatting or inviting you in for a drink or your dinner.”
In one building, six of the nine residences are populated by gay couples or individuals. The preponderance of like-minded individuals has ignited an electric social life of concert trips, barbecues and dinner parties. “We had a gay roving dinner party last week,” said one resident who did not wish to be named. “Everyone was in evening wear and I was in my kilt – we enjoyed five wonderful courses in five different flats.” Locals are a little bemused by the new arrivals. “You’d think they could have chosen somewhere nicer,” said a shopkeeper, who did not wish to be named. But the area is already feeling the benefit.
The Loch Fyne Shellfish Bar on London Road was once the unpretentious haunt of market traders eating large bowls of “clabbie dhus” (giant mussels). It has recently been renovated to appeal to a more upmarket clientele. “I have a lot of gay people come into the bar,” said Allan Millard, the owner. “Seafood is trendy and they are good customers. They have money and spend it. “A hundred years ago this area was popular with lawyers and doctors — I hope that returns. I don’t care if it’s through gays and lesbians.” The development’s popularity has pushed up prices. Slater, Hogg and Howison, the estate agent, is selling a two-bedroom penthouse apartment in the Ushida Findlay building for offers over £199,000.
12 January 2002
Don’t tell me who I am: Interview with Scottish back lesbian poet Jackie Kay
by Libby Brooks
Jackie Kay has become used to all kinds of assumptions being made about her identity – literary, national, sexual and familial. The more annoying, because the joy of being a writer is that you can create any persona you like. On the other hand, she does want to stand and be counted. She explains to Libby Brooks Jackie Kay tells a tale of mistaken identity. “I went to sit down in this chair in a London pub and this woman says, ‘You cannae sit doon in that chair – that’s ma chair.’ I said, ‘Oh, you’re from Glasgow, aren’t you?’ and she said, ‘Aye, how did you know that?’ I said, ‘I’m from Glasgow myself.’ She said, ‘You’re not, are you, you foreign-looking bugger!'”
Kay roars delightedly. “I still have Scottish people asking me where I’m from. They won’t actually hear my voice, because they’re too busy seeing my face.” Meanwhile, in Glasgow, her black female friends are stopped in the street and asked if they’re Jackie Kay. Since her triumphant poetry debut, The Adoption Papers, in 1991, which won the Saltire and Forward Prizes, Kay has established herself as one of the most sure-footed voices in contemporary literature. Sealing her reputation with a further two collections of poetry, she went on to publish a novel, Trumpet, in 199–the story of Joss Moody, a renowned jazz trumpeter who is discovered after his death to have been a woman, it won the Authors’ Club first novel award and the Guardian fiction prize.
Jackie Kay has a cheeky laugh. It echoes in her work, especially her poetry. In ‘Ma Broon Visits The Therapist’, from her collection ‘Off Colour’, she deposits the cartoon wifey from the Scottish Sunday Post newspaper on an analyst’s couch: “Jings, this is exciting.” And there are darker recesses in her work, where she reveals the ubiquity of loneliness. Recently 40, Kay has now published her first collection of short stories, Why Don’t You Stop Talking. In the title story, a woman chatters to strangers at the supermarket checkout, on the underground and in the street, only to be answered by suspicious, angry silence. The Woman With Fork And Knife Disorder describes the descent into domestic madness of a housewife, discarded by her husband and despised by her daughter, whose cutlery starts to rebel. The protagonist in Timing arranges her day to coincide with the routines of her neighbours, but the moment she attempts to interact with one, the illusion of company is shattered.
For Kay, loneliness is not a defining quality. Her characters are not freakish, not even necessarily unhappy. But they are people without an answering voice, people without echoes, people without love. Because Kay believes in love, not wistfully, but in the transformative power of love’s presence. “It seems to me,” she says, “that if you’re loved, then you’ve got company in life. And if you’re not loved, then you have no company. Even when you’re with other people, you have no real company, because there’s nobody who understands what it’s like to be truly yourself.” But what is it like to be truly yourself?
Is it possible to sustain your self by yourself? And what becomes of those who are denied that loving, answering voice? Throughout her writing life, Kay has posed these questions from various angles: in Trumpet, for example, the relationship between Moody and his wife creates and nourishes an identity, allowing him to do the impossible – to live his life as a man. Twice Through The Heart, Kay’s BBC2 poetry documentary that became an English National Opera song cycle, was inspired by the story of Amelia Rossiter, a pensioner who was jailed for life for the murder of her abusive husband but later released on appeal. Here, Kay examines how extremes of violence can alter a woman’s sense of herself, and expectations of what she is capable of. And, most obviously, The Adoption Papers dealt with identity in its rawest form: told by three voices, the daughter, the adoptive mother and the birth mother, it asks, “Does she imagine me this way?”
Born in Edinburgh to a Scottish mother and Nigerian father, Kay herself was adopted by a white couple and brought up in Glasgow. A lesbian–she lives in Manchester with poet Carol Ann Duffy, her own 13-year-old son, Matthew, and Duffy’s daughter, Ella, six–Kay has found her own identities too easily commodified for comfort.
“Your characters are fiction, but when you’re a public writer people often try to make them you. Often, they have this real need, which seems to come out of our culture, to relate things back to this big thing called the personality. There’s something discomforting about that gaze being on you because, by writing, you’ve deliberately chosen to put yourself behind the scenes.
“I sometimes take my own experience as a diving board to jump off into the pool of my imagination, but I don’t want to write about the diving board; I don’t even want to talk about it. I remember doing an interview once, and they just had as the headline ‘Black Lesbian Scottish’. I struggle to see Martin Amis being described in this way. You would never dream of asking a heterosexual writer how being heterosexual affected their writing, yet it’s often asked of a lesbian writer.”
Is it reasonable to demand that that which marks you out be ignored? Or is Kay hoping for a more rounded appreciation of her work? She will allow that her obsession with identity comes from being adopted. “You always ask, ‘Would I have been like this, if I had been brought up with my original parents?’ You ask that of yourself, and then you ask that of people whom you see in different situations. What makes them who they are? And, without certain ingredients, without love, would those people be very different? I think they would.
Even their way of doing ordinary things, like brushing their teeth, would be different because their way of understanding their face in the mirror is different.” Kay’s latest short stories also examine how characters can shore up their present identity through a renegotiation of the past. In Big Milk, an adopted woman, wracked with jealousy after her lover has a baby, seeks succour on the doorstep of her birth mother. This resolution finds its mirror in Trout Friday, an anti-quest that sees a young woman rejecting the too-late advances of her absent father.
“Our own pasts constantly rejuvenate themselves,” says Kay. “It’s not something that has happened and that was it. It’s open to reinterpretation. I find it fascinating that we can’t even say we’ve lived what we’ve lived.” So, in the case of Trout Friday, can rejection of the past be as empowering as acceptance of it? She is equivocal. “It’s like people who’re adopted who decide never ever to trace [their birth parents]. I quite admire that, and, in another way, I don’t–I think it’s cowardly not to go and find out about yourself.
I think people who don’t are protecting themselves from some druggie mother, or some rejection that would be piled on the rejection they already feel. But both ways of looking at it are true. In that story, she definitely feels stronger.” (Kay has traced her own birth mother, but chooses not to discuss this further.) The short story is in many ways the obvious showcase for Kay’s talents. Her strength is in contriving to make what is economically described on the page become roomy in the mind.
She prefers the short story to any other form she’s written in, she says. It’s exciting. It’s experimental. She describes the short stories she has loved all her life: Anton Chekov, Raymond Carver, Katherine Mansfield, Alice Munro–little jewels that capture ordinary people at moments of extraordinary change. “In a short story, you can have one single idea and explore it completely. It’s like a wee picture that reveals a big picture. Like a quick but very penetrating glance at somebody’s life that often reveals something you’re not expecting.”
A writer needs self-belief and self-doubt in equal measures, says Kay. In the doubting times, what difference does it make to live with another writer? “It’s helpful, because we’re very supportive of each other, but we’re quite separate in our writing lives,” she says of Duffy, her partner of 10 years. “Carol Ann has her study in the bottom of house, I’ve got one right at the top and we often spend whole days when we’re both just writing. People often ask [about our relationship], and they expect us to be either jealous or competitive or depressing,” she laughs. “But it feels like a lucky thing to have someone who completely understands the way that you’ve got to struggle.”
Kay has always read and always written. As a young girl growing up in predominantly white Glasgow, books such as Anne Of Green Gables and the Famous Five series offered her other lives, while writing gave her the chance to create her own. When she was 12, she wrote the 80-page One Person, Two Names in a school jotter, illustrated by a pal, about a girl living in the States who was black but pretended to be white. “It interests me that I still write about the same things,” she notes dryly. Writing fulfilled a need.
“It’s a huge freedom to be allowed to make things up in your head. I always loved that as a kid. I used to make up terrible lies.I liked seeing whether or not I could be believed.” Her worst lie? “Well, once I said my brother had drowned. My mum and dad combed the whole bank of the river,” she hoots. “I was only three then. That was a very bad lie.” Her parents–communists who took their children on anti-apartheid protests and peace rallies–encouraged her creativity, if not her lies. “Some children’s imaginations are squashed because they’re told it’s disturbed to have an imaginary friend.
Actually, the most healthy thing you can have is an active and vibrant imagination, because it allows you to carry out all sorts of things without ever actually doing them. If I got called names, I could go away and write a poem about some terrible revenge. Your imagination can allow you to survive in a completely different way.” After studying English at the university of Stirling, Kay moved to London, where she worked variously as a cleaner and hospital porter, before she was able to write full-time. She moved to Manchester four years ago. Essentially, she left home because she was tired of having to assert herself as a black person in Scotland – despite a burgeoning racial mix, Glasgow is not known for its multi-cultural harmony.
“There is a funny thing when people accept you and don’t accept you. I love the country, but I don’t know if the country loves me.” She didn’t want this for her son. Her writing remains steeped in the rhythm and humour of Scottish voices, however: in The Oldest Woman In Scotland, the protagonist curses the “old articles” with whom she shares her nursing home, and scandalises herself with the swearwords of the day: “Oh God’s trousers!” Distance, says Kay, has given her “an outside way of looking back in”. Just as Kay rejects personal categorisation, she baulks at literary assumptions, too. It is a nonsense, she argues, that women writers should be criticised for writing about the domestic. “What I am most interested in reading is often the domestic, the wee world. I find that it can be very boring to read about The Workplace, or The World, unless someone really knows how to do it. And the domestic world can reveal its own violence, its own war. Everything you might find outside, you find intensified, concentrated, inside your own house.”
The charge is levelled more, she notes, the more successful women writers become. “It’s the sort of thing a sulky boy would do, a way of diminishing them, but it’s nonsense, really. You’ve got a whole rang–Pat Barker, Margaret Atwood, Alice Munro, Toni Morrison–they all write very differently. Women writers should reject the notion that it is even a realistic label.” It can be argued, though, that identity brings with it responsibility.
Does she ever feel the need to stand up and be counted? “Yes, I do,” she says. “I’m always openly gay. It’s not easy – shockingly and surprisingly, we don’t live in a society where it’s easy to be a gay mum and pick up your kids from school, or have two of you at parents’ night. “I feel a responsibility not to be a namby-pamby person who says, ‘I hate labels, and I will never say what I am.’ Hating labels is one thing, but it’s the reality that we live in a society that understands people by their –literally, now–labels. If we refuse to say what we are, then people wonder what you are hiding.
It’s the classic catch-22 – yes, I’m black, yes, I’m gay, but does that define everything I write? No, it doesn’t.” Kay believes that, ironically, the country is becoming less liberal. “We talk about sex in a different way, but I don’t think that that actually means we’re very open about it. We’re certainly not open about people having different sexualities. We know that we’re backward, because we can’t accept these situations with ease, they’ve always got to be commented on.” In another life, Jackie Kay dreams of being a jazz singer. A lot of the rhythms that she uses in writing come from music, she says. She has a good ear. Last Christmas, Duffy bought her a trumpet, and now she’s planning lessons. She smiles at all the possibilities that exist in being herself.
Why Don’t You Stop Talking, by Jackie Kay, is published by Picador.
26 June 2002
Scale Of Fire Damage To City Club Stuns Gay Community
by Angela Taylor
Aberdeen’s gay community has been shocked by the destruction of the city’s premier gay venue. Castro’s on Netherkirkgate has been gutted by fire and adjoining shops suffered smoke and water damage. Investigations are under way to establish the cause, which is not thought to be suspicious. At the height of the blaze, 32 firefighters were engaged in the operation, facing thick smoke, huge flames and temperatures of up to 1,000C. They had to break into adjoining shops and offices to try to stop it spreading. Customers voiced dismay at the indefinite closure of the bar, the longest established of two gay clubs in the city. A statement posted on the club’s website yesterday morning said: “There was a serious fire during the night within Castro’s. Currently we do not believe anybody was hurt. “This damage has resulted in Castro’s closing, with a view to possible re-opening in the future.” Traffic ground to a virtual standstill in the city centre as Union Street – which is already affected by work being carried out in the former Poundstretchers building, gutted by fire in March, 1998 – was partially closed to traffic.
The blaze burned out of control for about two hours. It was thought to have broken out on the first floor and dropped through a void into the ground and basement floors. It then spread to the upper floor and the roof. Vicki Watson, manager of the Leather Centre on Union Street, said she was woken by a telephone call at 4.25am. “I was told there was a fire at Castro’s and it was spreading and could I open the shop up to let the fire brigade get access. “There were flames going up through the roof at the back of the building in the Netherkirkgate.” One Castro’s regular, who did not wish to be named, said news spread quickly that the popular venue had been destroyed. “I was texted by a friend first thing this morning, and I thought it was a joke,” he said. “The building looks completely gutted. “I can’t see how they’d manage to repair that kind of damage without spending huge amounts of money, and it’s a big risk to get that type of venue established in Aberdeen. “Castro’s has done a lot for the Aberdeen scene, such as it is. It drew a fairly mixed crowd, and there was never any trouble.
It was a definite meeting point for people, and was the first to really inform and involve its customers through a website. “It’s not going to stop anybody going out, but it means there is now only one gay club in Aberdeen, and one bar that’s out of the way, and that can become pretty boring after a while.” Another customer learned about the blaze through news reports, adding that he had visited the bar just a few days before the fire. He said: “It’s a shame to see one of the Aberdeen clubs gone. The other place only opened last month and that’s us back to one club again, instead of two.” Assistant divisional officer John Morrice, of the fire brigade, said police alerted Grampian Fire Brigade to the blaze at about 3.40am. Five appliances, one aerial appliance, a communication support unit and a damage control unit attended the scene.
The bar had been “severely damaged” and there was a considerable amount of water damage to adjoining properties, he said. Fire crews from three stations attended the blaze, which also caused Castro’s roof to collapse. Christie’s 99p Store and Holland and Barrett, which are either side of Castro’s were closed. Union Street was initially closed from Broad Street to Market Street. At 6.30am the closed section of Union Street was opened to westbound traffic only. Eastbound vehicles were diverted down Market Street. It was open as normal at 11.25am but Flourmill Lane remained closed. A spokesman for Stagecoach Bluebird said a couple of bus services had been affected by diversions but delays had been minimal. A spokeswoman for First said buses were running roughly 20-30 minutes late. Services were running normally by mid-morning, she said. Director of Castro’s Colin Mutch declined to comment.
July 8, 2002
Inquiry into international gay sex club
by Raymond Duncan
Two Scots who run a are notorious sex trade operation in Thailand to be investigated by the country’s government in a move to clean up its sleazy image. One of them, 60-year-old Gordon May, from Edinburgh, was linked 10 years ago to a police inquiry into allegations that a gay conspiracy existed in the city’s senior legal circles. Glasgow-born James Lumsden, his business partner in Thailand, worked at a Scottish building firm with Mr May before they set up in business in Asia.
Thailand’s interior minister, said to be concerned about the country’s bad reputation abroad, has ordered officials to look at the activities of Mr May and Mr Lumsden, who run what is billed as the Asian continent’s most popular gay club. The call for action by Purachai Piumsomboon, a government minister often referred to as “The Puritan”, follows the discovery of a pornographic video promoting the sex business on the Chinese market. Britons figure highly in Thailand’s tourist trade controlling ghettoes of bars in Bangkok, Pattaya and Phuket.
Mr May and Mr Lumsden, 51, are two of its most controversial figures. Their gay bar, Boyz Boyz Boyz, operates in Pattaya, a resort notorious for sex, sleaze and police corruption. More than a decade ago Mr May, a former financial director with builder Teague Homes (Scotland), was cleared of embezzling £219,000 from the company. It was one of five cases in the late 1980s and early 1990s that led disgruntled police officers to the belief that a homosexual conspiracy existed at that time in Edinburgh’s senior legal circles. The investigation did not substantiate allegations that the gay community had influence over several court decisions.
October 12, 2002
Lesbians Say We’re Gay, Married And Proud
Two lesbians claim they have overcome years of prejudice after “marrying” in their local pub yesterday. Michelle Main, 22, and Nicky Coull, 28, say they suffered greatly while coming to terms with their sexuality in the traditional fishing villages where they were brought up. But they were determined to make their love public. Their union was blessed by a Humanist Society officiant in front of family and friends in Elgin, Moray.
Nightclub bouncer Michelle, originally from Hopeman, Moray, said: “We had to overcome prejudice. “There are a lot of people against this, but, as the first gay person from our village to go this far, I hope it will inspire others to come out and be themselves.” The pair met in Aviemore two years ago when Michelle visited the ski village, where Nicky worked as a care nurse. Soon afterwards, they moved together to Elgin. Nicky, originally from Brora, Sutherland, said: “Neither of us had come out to another woman before. “But when Michelle told me she was gay and fancied me, I was so relieved and told her I felt the same.”
Michelle added: “I realised I was gay quite early in my teens and it was hard hearing friends talk about boys when I was interested in girls. “But I have a lot of friends who accept me for who I am – and most are here today.” The pair exchanged rings and vows during the 30-minute ceremony and lit symbolic candles at the end of their pledges. Dawn Main, 42, said she fully supported her daughter. She added: “I first knew she was gay four years ago and it was a bit hard hearing it for the first time. “But she is my daughter and I love her whatever.” Michelle’s dad, offshore worker Danny Main, does not share his ex-wife’s view and did not turn up at the wedding.
But Nicky’s mum Patsy was also at the ceremony, in Elgin’s Caberfeidh Bar. Despite their unusual ceremony, the pair stuck to age-old wedding traditions. They refused to see each other the night before the service and Nicky walked towards Michelle at the altar with bridesmaids in tow. Nicky said: “I hope what we have done here today will inspire others to come out if they are struggling with their sexuality. “It’s our lives and we will live them the way we want. “There will be times when it’s difficult, but I can only see a brilliant future for us together.”
November 10, 2002
Gay history highlighted
by Jenifer Johnston
A landmark project has been launched in Edinburgh to catalogue a living history of the gay and lesbian community in the capital. The Living Memory Association, based in the Museum of Edinburgh and backed by a grant of more than £2000 from Edinburgh City Council, turned their attention to the gay community after it was found that they had little recorded history.
Interviews, photographs, music and memorabilia will all feature in the project, which will go on display next year. The exhibition will build a picture of gay life in Edinburgh with gay, lesbian and transgender people of all ages making a contribution. Miles Tubb said the project would be a positive act of history. “In the 1960s and 70s the gay community was very much an underground movement in the city. It is interesting to hear how difficult it was to ‘come out’ in those times.”
Tim Hopkins, spokesman for the Equality Network, ( http://www.equality-network.org/ )a campaigning organisation for gay, bisexual, lesbian and transgender people, said it was a step forward for Edinburgh to recognise the role that LGBT people play in the capital.
10 December 2002
Scots Green Party fights for minority rights
MSPs are to be asked to consider giving gay and lesbian people the same legal protection as racial minorities. The move is being proposed by the Green MSP Robin Harper. His proposal follows similar moves in the Scottish Parliament to outlaw religious bigotry. Under the plans, courts could be allowed to impose heavier sentences in cases where religious bigotry is the motive. This would be similar to race relations legislation which allows for an “aggravated charge” to be brought when an offence is committed on the grounds of race. MSPs on the parliament’s Justice 2 Committee will vote on Tuesday on whether the principle should be extended to religious bigotry.
Mr Harper said such legal protection should extended further to cover all minority groups, including gay and lesbians and the disabled. ‘Specifically targeted’ It is unlikely his amendment will be accepted by the committee, which is already under pressure due to the highly complex Criminal Justice Bill. The UK Government is considering plans to grant gay and lesbian partners many of the same rights as married couples. MPs from all parties joined pressure groups to back the proposals for legally-recognised civil partnerships.
The plans would apply to England and Wales, with the Scottish Executive saying it would examine the proposals, though it has no current plans for similar steps. If his amendment proves unsuccessful Mr Harper said he would urge parliament to consider it in its final debates on the Bill. Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland Mr Harper said: “There is clear evidence that many if not all of these groups suffer from intimidation and violence to a great extent. ‘Must be protected’
“People who are specifically targeted because they belong to a certain minority group should be protected by law.” There was evidence of hate crime on disability, age and homophobic grounds as well as religious or sectarian grounds, the MSP said. “The argument that common law will protect these groups just does not hold water. “The disabled, gays and lesbians, older people and women must be protected against hate crime and I’m asking the parliament to enshrine this in Scots law.” The executive has already signalled it is in favour of the proposal to counter religious bigotry, but it is unlikely to support Mr Harper’s amendment.
December 27, 2002
Gay helpline forced to find new premises
Scotland’s leading gay and lesbian helpline is to be made homeless. Glasgow’s Strathclyde Gay and Lesbian Switch-board ( http://www.sgls.co.uk/ ), which takes 8000 calls a year, has until early next year to vacate its west end premises. The charity’s landlord has decided to convert the offices into luxury apartments and has given SGLS six months to find a new home. Manned by volunteers the switchboard gives advice on everything from coming out to safe sex, providing a lifeline for people to discuss their sexuality.
It also works closely with Strathclyde Police on its Homophobic Crime Line to crackdown on anti-gay and lesbian attacks. An SGLS spokesman said: “We are confident we will find new premises quickly. “All our callers can be assured we will continue to operate as before and they should notice no difference.” Switchboard bosses hope to move into a new home as early as possible and may even be settled in by January. The switchboard was established in 1976 and is staffed by more than 50 unpaid volunteers who man its phonelines from 7pm until 10pm seven nights a week. Call in confidence on 0141 332 8372
December 27, 2002
Gay Coupled Accosted for Kissing–Receive Apology
by Janice Burns, Exclusive
A gay couple were kicked out of a train station waiting room and verbally abused for kissing in public. Gavin Cabrey and Steven Anderson, both 22, were cornered by two ScotRail staff as they smooched. They were stunned when the pair threatened them with violence at Paisley Gilmour Street station. Administrator Gavin, of Castlemilk, Glasgow, and waiter Steven, of Newton Mearns, outside the city, have complained to ScotRail, claiming discrimination.
Last night, Gavin said: “Steven and I were kissing in the waiting room while we waited for our train. “It was purely innocent and we weren’t doing anything indecent or wrong. All of a sudden, two ScotRail staff came barging into the room. “Both came in at the same time from separate entrances and cornered us. “One of them started shouting that it wasn’t right for two guys to be kissing. “He said it was unacceptable. He shouted that that kind of behaviour was not tolerated in Paisley.
“His hands were flailing about and I thought he was going to hit us but the other guy tried to calm him down.” Gavin added: “They kicked us out of the waiting room, but they were still shouting at us and we ended up missing our train.” Steven claims the rail staff admitted they wouldn’t have batted an eyelid if it had been a heterosexual couple kissing. The incident was captured on CCTV cameras at the station and ScotRail have apologised to the couple for their workers’ behaviour. They also sent them a £20 rail travel voucher as compensation. But Gavin and Steven insist the gesture doesn’t go far enough and are calling for the workers to be disciplined. Gavin said: “I don’t want free travel, I want justice. ScotRail have apologised and said it will not happen again but I want the guys disciplined.
“They have to make an example of them to make sure that staff know they can’t get away with it.” Gavin is adamant if they had been a heterosexual couple kissing in the waiting room, no one would have batted an eyelid. He added: “But, because we are guys, we have been blatantly discriminated against and it is just not right. We wrote to ScotRail because this kind of thing must be stamped out. We cannot allow this to happen in this day and age.” ScotRail admitted the couple were treated badly and said an investigation had been launched into their workers’ “unacceptable” behaviour.
In a letter of apology, customer services manager Pamela Ballantyne said: “You’re right. “Our staff should be helpful and courteous at all times and I’m sorry this wasn’t the case on this occasion. “You should certainly have been treated better and we certainly do not condone this kind of behaviour.” Ms Ballantyne stressed they would be emphasising this point to the local manager. She added: “We operate as a nondiscriminative company and hope that our staff carry this forward when dealing with our passengers.
“Please accept my apologies that, on this occasion, the members of staff did not act appropriately.” ScotRail said the workers, who would have been identified on CCTV, will be dealt with by their local manager. Last night, a spokesman said: “They have acted inappropriately and an investigation will be carried out. “We apologise for any embarrassment and distress caused to our passengers. “I am sure if they were a heterosexual couple, this would not have happened.”
February 18, 2003
20% of gays in Scotland have children, according to the largest survey of its kind
by Vicky Collins
One in five gay people in Scotland are parents and a further 17% would like to have children in the future, a survey published today found. The research into the views and experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people, the largest ever commissioned in Scotland, also found that only 10% of these parents had used artificial insemination to conceive. Most of the children had been born during a previous heterosexual relationship. One third of parents, most of them female, said their children were living with them.
The survey, the first to cover all of Scotland, questioned 920 LGBT people across the country. There are thought to be around 500,000 LGBT people living in Scotland, roughly 10% of the population. It was commissioned by Beyond Barriers, a Glasgow-based gay rights group, which admitted that the high number of parents within the LGBT community had come as a surprise. The report will be launched in Glasgow today. Ruth Henry, manager, said: “We will have to look at the issue of parenting and the issues facing the children of lesbian and gay parents. We need now to work with education authorities to look at how – if at all – they include LGBT issues in the curriculum. It is an area that is not included enough at the moment.” The biggest issue facing LGBT people was felt to be equal partnership rights, according to the survey. Discrimination and prejudice was seen as the next most important issue.
February 18, 2003
Abuse comes with the gay territory–Survey shows that many suffer for sexual orientation
by Vicky Collins
Keith Cowan believes gay people are all too ready to accept abuse as a way of life. Like many gay people, he has tried to ignore the insults he receives because of his sexual orientation. One incident, when youths began adding stones to the insults they were hurling at him, he shrugged off as relatively minor. “It is something we all have to deal with on a regular basis,” Mr Cowan said. “It is part of life if you are gay – you have to put up with abuse. “Most of us never think it is serious enough to report it to the police, and the police probably thank the Lord for that, because there is no way they could cope if every incident was reported.” Mr Cowan, 33, from Edinburgh, is not alone in this view, according to the first survey of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people from across Scotland, which will be launched in Glasgow today. Of the 920 people who responded, 79% had suffered verbal or physical abuse because of their orientation.
Only 17% of them had reported it to the police, considering it would be a “waste of time”. Mr Cowan said: “Homophobia and racism is now as much of a problem, if not more, than sectarianism. The Scottish Executive is always talking about sectarianism and racism, but I have yet to hear a politician in Scotland stand up and insist that something is done about this ridiculous level of homophobia.” Ruth Henry, manager of Beyond Barriers, hoped the survey would encourage greater co-operation between politicians, the police force, and the LGBT community. “This survey confirms what we have been told over the years – that people do suffer a high level of homophobic abuse,” she said. “It is clear evidence that we can present to the police and other agencies who usually just tell us “well, we do not have people reporting that, we do not have any statistics on that” and who therefore do not know how big a problem it is. “It is all about having physical evidence.”
Prejudice was seen as one of the biggest issues facing the LGBT community in Scotland, according to 22% of respondents to the survey commissioned by Beyond Barriers. However, almost a third were more concerned about equal partnership rights for homosexual couples, an issue to be tackled by the government in legislation planned for later this year. More than 60% of respondents who were in a relationship said they would register it as a civil partnership if such a law was passed. Kenny Duffus, 25, from Glasgow, hoped that a change in the law would herald a change in attitudes towards gay people. “A lot of educated people do realise that we haven’t got two heads – we are not any different from anyone else except for the people we fancy,” he said. “I think equal partnership rights are really important. If we were equal in law, then it would be easier for people in general to think of us as equal.
“To me, it is more the principle that is important, rather than a need for the law to be changed for my own relationship.” The survey found that, despite the fear of prejudice, the vast majority of respondents were open about their sexuality among friends (95%), family (80%), and work colleagues (76%). More than half of respondents said their sexual orientation had not prevented them from feeling a part of the wider community, and were particularly concerned to register their opinions in the political sphere. More than 80% of respondents said they voted in the last general election, and more than 70% had voted in Scottish parliament election in 1999. This compares to a turnout of 59% of the population in the last Westminster election in 2001.
May 31, 2003
Gay councillors wish to hold civil ceremony
Two newly elected councillors have announced they are gay lovers and would like to hold a civil wedding ceremony in the council chambers. Neil Fletcher and John Stewart said they had been together for more than a decade and have cemented their partnership by winning seats in Aberdeen City Council. The pair, who share a house in the city’s Kittybrewster area, were voted in as Liberal Democrat councillors following local government elections on May 1. Mr Fletcher, 38, an accountant originally from Stoke-on Trent, said the couple had always been quite open about their relationship but wanted to clearly state their sexuality to constituents. He said: “As we take up our careers on the council it seems like an appropriate time to make our relationship perfectly clear. “But we have never hidden the fact that we are a couple. We name each other as our respective partners on the Lib Dems’ website, so it’s not rocket science to find out.”
Mr Stewart, 30, who works as a researcher for MP Sir Robert Smith, said the couple were voted to represent all constituents and would not specifically concentrate on gay issues. He said: “First and foremost, we are councillors, serving all the people in our wards. We are just two councillors who happen to be gay.” The men, who both studied at the University of Aberdeen, said they would eventually like to hold a legal ceremony recognising their partnership at the city’s Town House. A council insider said: “It was well known for some time in council circles although it might be surprising for some constituents. They were quite open about it and have no problem talking about it.”
February 24, 2003
Glasgow pioneers service for young gays
by Lorna Martin
Glasgow City Council will today become the first local authority in Scotland to employ its own dedicated team to work with young lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. The appointment of an LGBT youth worker, supported by other staff on a sessional basis, follows research showing that young gay and lesbian people are 10 times more likely to attempt suicide than mainstream groups. The council is putting £40,000 into the 14-month project. The move has been welcomed by young gay people and equality groups, but criticised by some religious organisations who questioned whether it was a good use of public money. John Paul Fitzpatrick, who takes up the post today, hopes it may eventually pave the way for LGBT youth workers to participate in the delivery of personal and social education classes in schools.
Initially, the project will offer a drop-in centre, and information and advice about sexual health for 16 to 25-year-olds. Working in conjunction with the voluntary sector, the LGBT youth workers will also undertake outreach work, targeting pubs and clubs where young gay people are likely to go. “Youth work is about supporting vulnerable young people, and young LGBT people are the most marginalised and vulnerable I’ve ever met,” said Mr Fitzpatrick. Robert McHarg, youth issues manager with the council, said it was decided to fund the project after identifying the lack of resources committed to this group. He said: “Given our experience of working with this group in a very limited way, it’s obvious they are an excluded group who need support.” Simon Calvert, deputy director of the Christian Institute pressure group, said people were happy for local authorities to fund youth services that helped all young people, but said a group aimed at people of a certain sexual preference did not seem “very wholesome”.
March 24, 2003
Scottish painter says gay curators shun his work
One of Scotland’s most successful artists has claimed that gay curators of public collections are shunning his paintings because of their heterosexual content. Painter Jack Vettriano has launched an astonishing attack on the country’s art establishment, claiming it is dominated by “b*******” who shun his work because they prefer the depiction of gay sex. He also criticised female art critics who accuse him of portraying women as sexual predators, saying that they would like his works if they depicted “sexy people”.
He claimed curators of leading Scottish art galleries found depictions of homosexual sex “very acceptable” while frowning upon the “graphic heterosexual behaviour” which often features in his work. Vettriano said: “Someone said to me if you’d painted homosexual sex that would be all right with the arts establishment – there’s something very acceptable and poetic about that almost. “But a homosexual curator isn’t going to want to buy heterosexual work. It’ll do nothing for him, he won’t like it, and mine is in your face. In Scotland, a man and woman just trying to get the drawers off each other, well we do love to do it, but we don’t want to see it.”
Vettriano also criticised the National Galleries of Scotland and its director, Sir Timothy Clifford. He said the organisation’s recent decision to help buy Titian’s Venus Anadyomene demonstrated that it had got its priorities wrong. “Clifford is looking for £8m to buy a Titian. Who the f*** cares about Titian really, other than them?” he told the BBC’s Newsnight Scotland. “They’re all just sitting in committee meetings talking horseshit. The art world’s not about art, it’s about these b******* and their pensions.” Vettriano’s controversial remarks were last night refuted by leading figures from the Scottish art world. Bailie Liz Cameron, convenor of Glasgow council’s culture and leisure services committee, said of Vettriano’s assertion that curators’ decisions were influenced by their sexuality: “This is a ridiculous remark, and unworthy of comment.”
John Quinn, fine arts academic administrator at the Glasgow School of Art, said it was nonsense to talk of a homosexual conspiracy against Vettriano’s work. Quinn said the reason Vettriano’s paintings were not widely displayed in Scotland was because they lacked depth and cultural significance. “It is 1920s middle-class dancing on beaches underneath umbrellas drinking wine. It is almost Jeeves and Wooster on the beach,” he said.
20 June 2003
Ban On Gay Cop March
Every Scottish police force have banned their officers from marching in uniform at next month’s British gay pride festival. Their decision is contrary to the vast majority of their counterparts south of the Border. The Gay Police Association had written to each force in the UK asking permission for marchers to step out in uniform for the event in London. But the response from Scotland was a clear “No”. All but 11 of the 43 forces in England and Wales have granted permission for their marchers to wear uniform – the first time they have ever been allowed.
The Association of Chief Police Officers of Scotland deny their decision is homophobic and is to avoid confusion over officers’ powers. A spokesman said: “Any Scottish officer wearing a police uniform in England would be presenting himself as an officer with full powers. “Gay officers would have been permitted to parade had the event been held in Scotland.” The Gay Police Association point out that one of their representatives from Scotland was allowed to attend the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in uniform. Chairman Stephen Warwick said: “Refusing gay uniformed staff from celeb- rating who they are and what they do in the police is institutionally homophobic.”
23 January 2004
Muslim Gay man who fled to Capital attacked with a bottle
A homosexual Muslim who came to Scotland seeking a more tolerant society was left scarred for life after making advances on a man in Edinburgh. John Townsley, 28, was jailed for 30 months for attacking Mohammad Fiad with a bottle at the victim’s home in the Capital. Mr Fiad lost a litre and a half of blood in the assault and was left with serious head wounds and a broken nose and cheekbone, the High Court in Edinburgh heard. Unemployed Townsley, a father-of-two, of North Fort Street, Edinburgh, admitted assaulting Mr Fiad to his severe injury and permanent disfigurement on September 26 last year. Advocate deputy Keith Stewart said that the Algerian victim came from a family who held fundamentalist views.
“He left his own homeland in 1996 due to a fear of attack after it became known he was homosexual,” said Mr Stewart. Mr Fiad met Townsley at a Leith shopping centre, where he had been drinking with others. They went to Mr Fiad’s flat and began drinking. “Quite shortly after they began drinking Mr Fiad propositioned Townsley sexually,” said the advocate depute. Townsley went to the door and found that it was locked and as Mr Fiad approached he struck him on the head with the bottle, which broke.
26 January 2004
Scotland’s HIV cases at all time high, gay men most affected
The number of HIV cases in Scotland hit an all time high last year, with the highest figures since the mid-1980s. Additionally, figures show that the diagnoses in gay men last was also the highest annual figure recorded. According to the Scottish Centre for Infection and Environmental Health (SCIEH), a total of 259 people were diagnosed with the virus in 2003, with the majority found in the Lothians area of the country. The majority of new infections were in gay or bisexual men, proving that education about the impact of HIV and AIDS is failing. The health organisation says that 35% of diagnoses were amongst men who have sex with men, significantly above the 28% of heterosexuals who acquired the infection in Africa, the next highest group. In 2002, 250 people were diagnosed with the infection.
The news follows reports last year that HIV cases across the whole of the UK rose by 20% last year, while the gay community was also faced with a sexually transmitted infection (STI) epidemic. Campaigners are now calling on the government to fund more advertising campaigns promoting safer sex, and to introduce tough targets on GUM clinic waiting times, in the hope that people will get tested quicker if more accessible, and stop the infections spreading.
28 January 2004
Victims of gay crime urged to speak out-on Internet
by Alex Robertson
Victims of homophobic crime were today encouraged to report it through the internet and specially trained counsellors. Homophobic attacks have been reported across Glasgow, including one incident of serious assault on a man in Kelvingrove Park. The victim was left for dead after he was targeted in the west end park. The pioneering scheme to help members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender communities report homophobic crime was launched in Glasgow. The initiative has the backing of a host of celebrities including TV presenter Graham Norton, Scots comedian Craig Hill and actress Joanna Lumley. Police say victims are reluctant to come forward due to a perception of homophobia within the police, a feeling nothing can be done, or fear of their sexual orientation being disclosed. Counsellors have been trained in third-party crime reporting in a bid to encourage people to come forward and help police catch the culprits. Today’s launch follows a successful pilot scheme in Glasgow.
From April 2001 to March 2002, there were 10 reported incidents in the city. From April 2002 – when the pilot scheme was launched – the number incidents rose to 33. And in the next seven months police recorded a total of 23 homophobic incidents. Chief Constable Willie Rae said victims of homophobic crime are often reluctant to walk into a police station. He said: “Through this scheme, we hope more people will have the confidence to come forward, help us identify where incidents are taking place and how to prevent them.”
Thousands of specially designed posters and 10,000 information cards promoting the scheme will be displayed in pubs, clubs, police offices, health and social work offices and LGBT venues. A special website will also allow people to download a self-reporting form which should be forwarded to the police on completion. Eric Kay, chairman of the LGBT community safety forum, said: “For many years members of the gay community have been asking for an initiative which will help improve feelings of safety. “Third party reporting is an important and innovative step towards challenging homophobia by increasing reporting, raising awareness, fostering confidence and targeting perpetrators.” Victims will be able to download forms from www.strathclyde.police.uk
9 February 2004
Homophobia forces island sanctuary to close
by Ben Townley, Gay.com UK
Organisers in the Hebrides have been forced to close the only gay club in the region, after suffering consistent fears of homophobic attacks. The group had been meeting at undisclosed locations for more than two years, in a bid to form some sort of community in the remote Western Isles of Scotland. The places had to remain secret so as to deflect any untoward attention away from the group, because it feared homophobic repercussions from more conservative inhabitants.
Now however, the Gay Hebrides group has decided to give up on the idea of their meetings, because the task of keeping their presence hidden became too much, according to a report in The Times. They have also shut down their website, which as well as being used to organise meetings, offered health advice and support for gay men in the Isles. It is thought the closure means gay men will now have to travel to the mainland cities to find some sort of support network. Scottish gay groups have lamented the closure, but said it highlights the fear associated with being gay in rural areas across the country. Organisers now hope that someone in the area will take it upon themselves to relaunch the website and use it for the original intended purposes.
4 June 2004
Scotland votes to adopt Civil Partnerships
by Ben Townley, Gay.com UK
Members of the Scottish Parliament have voted in favour of using the Sewel motion to adopt Civil Partnerships north of the border when the bill is passed in Westminster later this year. Same-sex couples throughout Scotland will now have access to the same ceremonies as those in England and Wales, after 80 MSPs voted in favour of adopting the legislation. Although the decision was broadly welcomed across the country’s gay community, the issue of whether the devolved country should have drafted its own Scotland specific laws was still apparent. This issue first emerged last September, when the Scottish Executive introduced the idea of adopting English and Welsh law on Civil Partnerships when passed. At the time, Glasgow’s Green MSP Patrick Harvie, who originally brought the issue to parliament’s attention, accused the Executive of lacking political courage.
Today, despite expressing disappointment at the decision to use the Sewel motion, Harvie said the importance of Civil Partnerships for same-sex couples in Scotland should not be lost. “The expertise in Scottish law now resides here,” he told Gay.com UK, adding that around 70% of the issues involved in the bill have been devolved to Scotland. However, he said that was not a strong enough cause to see the right to recognition fail to reach Scottish lesbian and gay couples. “It would have been better if we’d done it here,” he said. “But we weren’t prepared to risk letting it fall. We were faced with either the Sewell motion or no Civil Partnerships.”
The decision was also welcomed by Stonewall Scotland, who praised the MSPs for backing the motion and making sure same-sex couples had access to Civil Partnerships in “the most practical and expedient way”.
“This has enabled such effective partnership working with Westminster colleagues in drafting a complex and far-reaching Bill with the Scottish sections conceived entirely within Scots law,” director Ali Jarvis said, adding that MSPs have “offered the opportunity to develop coherent UK-wide legislation and avoid a postcode lottery around fundamental human rights”.
“We’re delighted that the Parliament made a principled decision not to play party politics with people’s lives,” he added. The Civil Partnerships bill, which will give similar rights and responsibilities to same-sex couples as their married peers, is currently passing through the House of Lords, and is expected to be discussed in the House of Commons later this month.
26 July 2004
Edinburgh to become “gay wedding capital”
by Ben Townley, Gay.com UK
Edinburgh could become the next hot spot for lesbian and gay couples looking to formalise their relationship, a new company is claiming. By Any Other Name Ltd has formed to help create a haven for same sex couples looking to tie the knot north of the border, whether through commitment ceremonies or more legally binding celebrations when the country’s parliament adopts the Civil Partnership bill. The company also says it is looking to make the city a “gay Gretna Green”, a reference to the area in Scotland where straight couples flock to get married. The company told The Scotsman newspaper that it hopes to form a wide reaching base for couples looking not only to have a formal celebration of their relationship, but also to include non-gender exclusive details, such as wedding invitations and gifts.
“Edinburgh is a fantastic, romantic place to hold a wedding. I’m sure that couples from across Scotland would like to come here for their ceremony and we would be happy to help them make it a success,” company secretary Lorna Mitchell told the newspaper. Mitchell says she hopes the city could soon rival Brighton as a gay capital for the UK and could be a base for gay couples not only looking for a romantic break but also an fun filled break. “The city is already hugely popular for hen nights and stag parties. We would like to see the same levels of popularity for gay weddings,” she said. The first couple to marry through the company will hold their ceremony later this year.
28 July 2004
Scottish National Trust gives gay wedding support for first time
by Ben Townley
The National Trust for Scotland is to allow some of its buildings to be used for gay commitment ceremonies for the first time.
The Trust will work with gay wedding specialists Pink Weddings for the project, which will officially allow same-sex couples to conduct ceremonies in some of the organisation’s listed buildings for the first time. Pink Weddings founder Gino Merriano says the company did not encounter any negativity from the National Trust as the two organisations began working together.
“There wasn’t even an issue,” he told Gay.com UK today, adding that there was “no difference” to the previous work done south of the border. However, when the company worked with the National Trust in England and Wales, the idea encountered some hostility. In December last year, the Trust was criticised by groups such as the Christian Institute, which accused it of “pandering to political correctness”. Additionally, Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe said it was a “terrible idea”.
“I would say to any National Trust place planning this: Don’t do it,” she said at the time. But Meriano says the decision by the National Trust for Scotland to allow its venues to be used for such ceremonies was important in raising awareness of same-sex relationships, particularly in light of the recent events in the country. Earlier this month, a B&B owner in the Highlands caused a row by refusing to allow a gay couple to share a double bed. Additionally, a chaplain officiating at a commitment ceremony last week was at the forefront of controversy from within the Church of Scotland. “I think looking at what’s been going on, we have to raise even more awareness,” Meriano said today.
“The more we can do, another barrier can come down to the outside world. We just need to even the balance and show that such incidents are not acceptable”. The National Trust for Scotland venues offered through the company will range from the “finest historic houses and gorgeous gardens to stunning castles and atmospheric abbeys”, it said in a statement today. The ceremonies offered will not be religious or legally binding and do not require a licence. Legislation giving civil union rights and responsibilities to same-sex couples is expected to come into force when the Civil Partnerships bill makes it way through parliament later this year.
Scotland’s Catholic Gay Teacher Ban Met With Anger, Attacks
by Ross von Metzke
The Catholic Church in Scotland is having to contend with widespread complaint this week as senior bishops in the church have called for a ban on gay teachers. The ban, outlined in a new charter unveiled over the weekend, would ensure any teachers working at Catholic schools upheld the Catholic ‘ethos’ at all times. Although vague, one bishop said in an interview that the Catholic ‘ethos’ does not include a gay or lesbian lifestyle.
Bishop John Devine, who is also the president of the Catholic Education Commission, told the Associated Press that gay teachers would not be employed because they are “incompatible” with Catholic teachings. “Being homosexual would not at all be compatible with the charter. It would cut across the whole moral vision enshrined in it,” he said. He added that those gay teachers already employed in Scotland would be blocked from promotion while the Church works to update its reference and checking process. “The charter tightens this up,” he added.
However, the attempt to ban gay teachers has been slammed by the country’s governing body, as well as local councils. The Scottish Executive told The Scotsman that it “would expect authorities, in pursuit of their statutory obligations, to employ the best staff available.” Additionally, The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) says such a ban would be illegal. Legislation outlawing anti-gay discrimination in the workplace was introduced in 2003, although it did make reference to bans based on “general occupational requirement.”
But a legal challenge aimed at clarifying the legislation ended with a high court judge ruling that gay teachers working at religious schools would also be included in the protection. The Catholic Church has also been criticized by the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association (GALHA). That organization described the bishop’s comments as “scandalous.” “It is an attempt to use public funds to enshrine bigotry into the education system,”
GALHA Secretary George Broadhead said in a statement today. “What kind of message would such a ban send out to children in these schools: that it’s OK … indeed necessary to reject and hate their gay friends, relatives and colleagues? It is repellent.”
May 4, 2005
Scottish Parliament Bans Criticism of Homosexuality by Religious Guest Speakers
Edinburgh – The national Parliament of Scotland instituted a four-minute slot in its procedings in which representatives of Scotland’s religions would be invited to speak. On the whole, the slot called, “A Time for Reflection”, has mainly consisted of innocuous moments in which ministers come to Holyrood to speak in bland terms on inoffensive topics.
That changed slightly on December 22, 2004, when Keith Cardinal O’Brien, the Catholic Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, gave a Christmas reflection with the merest hint that homosexuality is an “aberration.” Cardinal O’Brien quoted Christ quoting Isaiah: “He has sent me to bring good news to the poor, to bind up hearts that are broken; to proclaim liberty to captives, freedom to those in prison; to proclaim a year of favour from the Lord.” The Cardinal then mentioned the poor in spirit in Scottish society, “There are many in our communities who are captives in some way or another—captives to an addiction to drink, drugs, sexual aberrations or whatever.”
The Cardinal’s mild and indirect apparent reference to Catholic teaching on homosexuality prompted one leftist MSP to propose a motion to prohibit any religious minister from speaking against homosexuality. Green MSP Patrick Harvie tabled a motion, quickly signed by 16 other members, to prohibit the expression of dissent from the homosexual agenda. The motion read, “That the Parliament condemns the use of the phrase “captives … to sexual aberrations” to describe Scotland’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.” The motion called Cardinal O’Brien’s observation a ‘gratuitous insult.’
Since then the rules for ministers giving the Time for Reflection have been revised to prohibit ‘discrimination.’ Speakers’ comments, the new rules say, “will be consistent with the principle of equal opportunities for all and should not include remarks or comments which are discriminatory.” A spokesman for the Archdiocese said the new rules make Parliament seem ‘petty and mean spirited. “Discrimination is in the ear of the beholder,” he said. “If MSPs don’t want to be questioned or challenged, it calls into question the whole purpose of the slot. Maybe they should consider scrapping it altogether if they are not willing to entertain freedom of expression.”
10 June, 2005
Scotland set for gay adoption
by Ben Townley
Scotland is set to allow same-sex couples to adopt children, in a review of the adoption legislation due to be announced today. Following on from changes in English and Welsh law, lesbian and gay couples north of the border may well be able to adopt children within the coming months. Currently, same-sex couples cannot register for adoption together and instead one person must apply for adoption rights. However, with the introduction of the Civil Partnership legislation, this policy will need to be updated to take into account legally recognised relationships.
Euan Robson, the deputy education minister, is due to unveil the changes, which also aim to reduce delays in the adoption process. The Scottish executive has already launched a review of the issue, which is thought to have flagged up the potential problems following the Civil Partnership implementation.
Adoption groups have already called for the block on same-sex couples to be dropped. However, the new laws could well anger Christian groups. Speaking earlier this year, the recently introduced Church of Scotland moderator said his Church could not accept gay adoption laws. “It is a traditional Christian doctrine and I hold to it. I don’t know if God has blessed any other way,” he told the newspaper. He said the Church – and his own personal view – would lean towards “the child needing both [male and female parents] to be properly grown”. His comments were slammed by campaigning group the Equality Network.
Spokesperson Tim Hopkins said the views would be “disappointing” to the children of lesbian and gay parents. “All those young people who have not been brought up by a man and a woman will be very disappointed by these remarks, which imply that they have not been brought up properly.”
28 November, 2005
Scots prepare for gay weddings on December 5
More than 100 people will celebrate their lesbian or gay relationship in Scotland when the new civil partnership laws come into force next week. According to a poll of register offices north of the border, 143 couples have already made provisional bookings for a ceremony, with many more lining up to hold a ceremony later next year. The Sunday Herald survey found that the majority of those looking to hold their ceremonies would do so in Edinburgh, to the “delight” of the city’s local authority. The first celebrations north of the border will take place in the city, said a spokeswoman, who added that the council was “thrilled that people have chosen our city to celebrate their special day”.
The results of strong support for the new laws comes despite opponents claiming it would be shunned outside of England. Far right groups and religious organisations said the new laws would be ignored in Northern Ireland and Scotland and should therefore be blocked. The claims were laughed off by campaigners and MPs at the time. The new laws come into force on the 5th December, with the first ceremonies taking place on the 21st. However, some ceremonies will take place a day earlier in Scotland after some register officers misread the amount of time needed between registering and holding a ceremony.
Scunthorpe is the latest Register Office to welcome lesbian and gay couples, with 14 couples already lined up to celebrate on the first few days of the new laws. Two couples will be the first in the town to take advantage of the new laws, booking in their celebrations on the 21st of December, the first day available.
Three gay weddings a day in Scotland
Richard Gray and Arthur Macmillan
AT least three gay “weddings” have been held in Scotland every day since new laws allowing homosexual couples to legally register their relationships came into force less than two months ago. A survey of every local authority in the country by Scotland on Sunday has revealed an astonishing demand for the civil partnership ceremonies and registrations, with 173 taking place in the past 53 days. Another 385 homosexual couples have booked registrations to take place over the next three months. Gay rights campaigners expressed welcome surprise at the rush for registrations, but critics of the new legislation say civil registrations are eroding the sanctity of marriage.
Edinburgh boasts the most, with 67 civil partnerships registered and another 178 booked. At the other end of the M8, there were 44 carried out in Glasgow and another 81 booked. But the figures are still dwarfed by traditional marriages, with each city holding 300 a month. Further analysis of the figures for Edinburgh also suggest its higher number of homosexual registrations may be fuelled by couples from outside the city seeking to take advantage of its gay friendly environment. Around 30% of the registrations in Edinburgh were by couples living elsewhere.
According to the figures, more than twice as many male couples have so far sought to enshrine their relationships in law than female couples since the first civil partnerships on December 20 last year. Rather than the garish, flamboyant affairs displayed in celebrity unions such as Elton John’s partnership with David Furnish, most ceremonies in Scotland have been quiet and discreet. Gretna, a favourite destination for heterosexual marriages, saw four immaculately turned out gay couples dressed in morning suits and highland outfits on the steps of its famous registry office. Staff also reported receiving more than 50 enquiries from couples interested in having a ceremony conducted. Jane Chandler, senior registrar at Gretna, said: “All the couples we have had wanted low key and discreet ceremonies with a few friends and family around them.
” There is nothing to tell them apart from the other marriages we conduct except the couples are the same sex. ” The first couple we had been together for 29 years, so it was an emotional moment for them.” The figures also reveal an intriguing east-west split in the proportion of ceremonies being carried out. East coast council areas have seen a higher uptake of the legislation, with eight all male registrations in Fife and another 16 booked. Aberdeen and East Lothian have both held six registrations. In comparison East Ayrshire has carried out none so far, but has five booked for the future in Kilmarnock. South Lanarkshire has had one lesbian “wedding”. Professor Lynn Jamieson, a sociologist from Edinburgh University, said: “In rural areas it will be difficult for couples to have a ceremony without everyone finding out, so if they are looking to have a discreet registration they may look to go somewhere they are not known.” Only two areas have experienced no demand for civil partnerships, Midlothian and the Western Isles. In December Scotland on Sunday revealed the Western Isles as the only place in the UK to ban homosexual ceremonies. Four council areas, Stirling, Moray, Highlands, Scottish Borders and Argyll and Bute, refused to respond to requests for the figures. John Murray, 27, and Chris Kolm, 27, both from Glasgow, are one couple now planning to take advantage of the new law by having a registration ceremony in April after being together for five years.
Murray said: “We can see ourselves being together for quite some time and a civil partnership does bring benefits for more practical, legal reasons, but we wanted to do it for more romantic reasons. ” Both our families are going to be there to help us celebrate our relationship.” Calum Irving, director of gay rights group Stonewall, said he hoped the number of couples registering would help encourage a culture change in the way homosexual relationships are viewed. He said: “It proves there was pent up demand for legal recognition for same sex relationships.” But senior figures in the Catholic Church in Scotland have attacked the legislation. Archbishop Mario Conti of Glasgow said: ” This new law has created a fiction of marriage by implicitly basing such publicly recognised partnerships on a sexual engagement. This can only diminish the special status of marriage.”
24 February 2006
Edinburgh gets gay walk
Edinburgh’s lesbian and gay history will be available for residents and visitors in the future, after a historical walk was launched in the city. Leaflets available in the Scottish capital, which was the centre of Scotland lesbian and gay fight for equality in recent years, will guide visitors through the city pinpointing key events that took place. These will include Scotland’s first Pride rallies, the sites of demonstrations and protests and areas where lesbian and gay people were attacked. Ellen Galford told the local press that the project was an attempt to allow lesbian and gay people to have better access to their history and roots.
It comes in the midst of the second LGBT History Month, something the organiser says has prompted a resurgence in gay history.
“Edinburgh itself – once a byword for a particularly narrow and hard-hearted puritanism – has undergone an incredible transformation into a vibrant, cosmopolitan, civilised city that LGBT people actively want to live in or to visit,” she told the BBC. Scotland’s gay potential is already being exploited by the travel sector, with both the UK and Scottish tourist board, Visit Scotland and Visit Britain, advertising to gay tourists both at home and in other European and North American countries. Gay historical walks are already popular in other cities, including London, where walks dedicated to gay heroes and heroines are in place. The Scottish walks will be followed by an exhibition dedicated to the fight for equality and gay rights in the early summer.
April 1, 2006
Gay writer Jake Arnott writes book (‘Fighting Mac’) about gay Scottish war hero Hector Macdonald
by Aiden Smith
Now Scotland on Sunday can reveal that writer Jake Arnott has changed style with an account of controversial crofter’s son Hector Macdonald who began his career as a private in the 19th-century British Army and later became a Major General, fighting in the Afghan war and both Boer wars. He distinguished himself when he saved the British Army from total destruction at the Battle of Omdurman in Sudan but a homosexual scandal led to his death in 1903. Arnott said: “He should have been the greatest Empire hero there ever was. But he got caught up in a homosexual scandal and, en route to his court martial, shot himself. In 1903, if you were gay, that was what you were expected to do.”
Arnott, who is gay, stumbled across Macdonald’s story only recently. It is well-enough known in Macdonald’s native Ross-shire, but Arnott’s book, ‘Fighting Mac’, will catapult his dramatic story into the mainstream, taking it to a much wider audience. “Hector Macdonald was a brilliant soldier who fought in the Afghan War and both Boer Wars,” Arnott said. “He displayed extreme bravery under fire, most famously at the Battle of Omdurman when he saved the army from destruction.
” While [Lord] Kitchener was going for glory and marching on Khartoum, Macdonald swivelled the battalion to face two columns of charging Dervishes. Omdurman was incredibly bloody, they were fighting Islamic extremists as well, so it was kind of like Desert Storm.” The rumours about homosexuality involving native boys in Ceylon are thought to have been circulated by jealous colonial officers who felt they should not have to answer to a man of “low breeding”, Arnott said: “A New York newspaper broke the story, and when Macdonald read it in his hotel, he went back to his room and put a pistol to his head.”
Arnott’s first novel, ‘The Long Firm’, has been filmed for the BBC. His most recent book,’ Johnny Come Home’, is published by Spectre.
May 21, 2006
Scottish Schools To Teach Gay Sex Ed
Edinburgh – Gay sex ed is to be taught in Scottish schools during health lessons a Scottish newspaper reported on Sunday. Scotland on Sunday reports that the current sex education guidelines will be expanded because they are “heterosexist”. Lessons will include safe sex, where to get peer counseling and same-sex relationships. It will be the first major overhaul of sex education in Scotland since repeal of a Thatcher era law that banned any discussion of homosexuality in schools. The paper reports that the government set the curriculum with the help of LGBT health and civil rights groups. Teachers will then be instructed on how to teach the subject. The paper said that the government hopes to have the program in place for the start of the next school year which begins in August.
A spokesperson for Health Scotland told the paper that teachers had asked for direction. “Teachers felt they didn’t know what to say about same-sex relationships. They felt uncomfortable and wanted to be appropriate without being offensive,” said spokesperson Shirley Fraser. The plan has the support of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council. ” If we don’t give young people the right information, they will just get the wrong information,” said spokesperson Eleanor Coner. ” They will go to the internet or to their friends. It is far better that they are given the proper information than none at all.” But the Catholic Church has condemned the move. In a statement the church in Scotland said the plan was “appalling, outrageous and utterly unnecessary”.
4 June 2006
Hebrides’ U-turn on gay weddings
by Murdo Macleod
The Western Isles is preparing to reverse its controversial ban on gay weddings in the Outer Hebrides in the run-up to new anti-discrimination legislation. The council says it will now find someone prepared to conduct a same-sex ceremony even though local registrars have until now refused to perform them. A bill which will make it illegal for businesses and public authorities to discriminate against homosexuals has forced officials in the islands to re-think their ban on civil partnerships involving same-sex couples.
Last December, Scotland on Sunday revealed that the Western Isles Council was the only authority in Scotland where gay couples could not have ceremonies for civil partnerships. The revelation was controversial, with gay rights campaigners condemning the move, and Executive ministers threatening to fly registrars to the Hebrides to perform the ceremonies. But the move was defended by church-going locals who live in the mostly staunchly religious part of Scotland, where more than 40% of the population regularly attend worship. A spokesman for the council, which prefers its official – Gaelic – title, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, said: “We are aware of the legislation, and we will meet our obligations under the law.”
The U-turn has been forced on the council by a new discrimination law which is being piloted through Parliament by the Department of Trade and Industry and which will make it illegal for businesses and public services to discriminate on the grounds of sexuality. The ban will also affect hotels, guesthouses and bed-and-breakfasts, who have been free to refuse to allow same-sex couples to spend the night in their rooms. In addition, it will affect gay clubs, which will have to allow admission to everyone, whether homosexual or heterosexual.
The move has been applauded by gay rights campaigners. Calum Irving, the director of Stonewall Scotland, said: “This is very welcome. It’s fantastic news from the Western Isles and it shows the importance of this new legislation in ending discrimination against lesbian and gay people in a number of situations. We look forward to the Western Isles being able to provide what people in the rest of Scotland take for granted.” But the churches were dismayed by the U-turn Rev Tim McGlynn, minister of the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing) on the isle of Scalpay, said: “It’s sad that those who claim to preach tolerance and diversity seem to be intent on forcing an aggressive and very militant secularism on everyone who does not agree with them. We just hope and pray that people who want to abide by the Word of God and their sincerely-held views will have the freedom to act according to their consciences and not themselves suffer through discrimination.”
June 8, 2006
Scottish Church Endorses Gay Co-Parenting
Edinburgh – Scotland’s largest Protestant denomination has endorsed a plan to allow same-sex couples to adopt children. The Scottish government is preparing to vote on a bill to permit gay couples to be co-parents. The measure is identical to a law passed in England last year. It allows same-sex partners to adopt each other’s children. It also permits both partners to adopt children through an agency or become co-parents through in-vitro fertilization. And, it allows same-sex couples to jointly be foster parents.
The Catholic Church in Scotland and evangelical churches are opposed to the legislation. They claim that the measure will undermine traditional marriage. In announcing its support for the bill the Church of Scotland acknowledged the concerns of the other denominations but said that the legislation would benefit children who might otherwise grow up in orphanages or foster homes.
Appearing before a parliamentary committee studying the proposed legislation Morag Mylne of the Church’s council on society said that the denomination continues to believe that the stability and care children needed was “best provided in the context of marriage”. But she said that given the need for more adoptive parents and the fact children were already being adopted by individuals in gay or unmarried relationships, “we can see some force in giving legal recognition to the realities of these situations”.
Last month the Church put off making a final decision on a proposal to bless same-sex unions in a contentious meeting of its General Assembly. The issue will return to the Assembly for a final decision next year. The Church of Scotland is the country’s national church. If it decides to allow the blessings church-wide it would make it the first major denomination in the United Kingdom to bless gay unions.
26 September 2006
Gay HIV cases in Lothians rise by 62%
HIV cases among gay and bisexual men in the Lothians have grown by almost two thirds in the last six years, it was revealed today.
New figures released today showed that of the 121 newly-reported cases of HIV infection in 2005/06, 55 were attributed to men who have sex with men. Health chiefs believe the 62 per cent increase in the figure be partly attributed to more people coming forward for HIV tests. But they have unveiled plans for a publicity campaign which will be mounted to raise more awareness of HIV, encourage people to have tests and promote safer sex.
NHS Lothian is pumping £25,000 into the campaign, which is also being backed by the Edinburgh-based organisations Gay Men’s Health and LGBT Youth. All three have been involved in planning a three-year campaign which will include posters, a website and newspaper advertising as well as staff going into bars and nightclubs to speak directly about HIV-related issues.
6 November 2006
Christian party wins anti-gay Muslim vote
Christians and Muslims make unlikely bedfellows, but in Scotland the two communities have found common ground in their homophobia. The Christian Peoples’ Alliance Scotland is campaigning against new legislation that will allow gay couples to adopt. The party is renowned for campaigning on an anti-gay platform, and this current drive is in an attempt to win a seat at next year’s Holyrood elections.
Chair of the SCPA party, Teresa Smith of Dumfries, states on the party’s website: “Holyrood is out of touch with public feeling and out of touch with the facts. Children need and deserve a mother and father figure, who provide complementary roles. “Our campaign aims to remind the Executive of the clear weight of sociological research which favours marriage-based family life as the most effective method for the rearing of children”.In a very bizarre twist, a member of Glasgow’s Central Mosque, Abdul Dean is currently standing for the party. He claims it’s the only party which represents his morality.
Dean said: “A lot of Muslims have asked me why I am standing. My answer is simple: the CPA is the only political party that is based on values, rather than ideology.” He said he had been promised support from many of the estimated 30,000 Muslims in Glasgow, where he is standing. This unlikely marriage of lost souls seems particularly strange considering the principles of the CPA. Their first aim, according to their website is:“Recognition of Christ’s sovereignty over the nations and in politics.”
Aside from the fact that this is a disturbing ethic for anybody with secular standards, it doesn’t sit particularly well with the ideals of Islam. Oddly enough, the first principle of Islam is: “There is no deity but Allah and Muhammad is the Apostle of Allah.” Observers have been quick to note that religious leaders are prepared to ditch their founding principles to unite in their hatred of the LGBT community. The CPA also plans to campaign against any approaches by schools to tackle the subject of homosexuality. The petitions issued by the party quote Nelson Mandela declaring: “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way it treats its children”.
8 November 2006
Edinburgh a top choice for gay weddings
by Rhiannon Edward
Edinburgh is the third most popular UK destination for gay weddings, with only London and Brighton staging more ceremonies in the last ten months. Almost a thousand Scottish couples have been joined in civil partnerships since the ceremonies were brought in last December. Edinburgh hosted 318 of the ceremonies, while Glasgow had about 60.
John Maguire and Laurence Scott-Mackay were the first pair to tie the knot at the capital’s Victoria Street register offices and Edinburgh now hosts an average of one civil partnership a day. Ben Summerskill, of the gay rights campaign group Stonewall, said: “Scotland itself is a very gay-friendly country. It has a reputation for embracing minority groups, including homosexuals. “Edinburgh and Glasgow are both very gay-friendly but because of its historical appearance, Edinburgh is a more popular location for ceremonies.”
The Church of Scotland, which has long opposed homosexuality, has softened in its outlook in recent times. Last year the Kirk was split on the subject of gay weddings after evangelical groups such as Forward Together claimed that the only sex approved by God is between a man and woman who are married. But the legislation introducing civil partnerships prompted the Kirk’s legal questions committee to come up with new rules, making clear ministers will not face disciplinary action for taking services to recognise same-sex unions.
7 December 2006
Blessed are gay couples
by Iain Whyte
When sometime before Civil Partnerships I conducted a service of blessing of the commitment to each other of two gay men in Edinburgh, two things in particular both encouraged and angered me about that event and its aftermath. The first was that in that congregation of straight, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender folk there were those who found this a place to safely engage with spiritual matters. The conversations afterwards with a number at the bar convinced me that there were some with a deep longing to connect with the things of the Christian faith, but familiar expectation and experience of rejection drove them a thousand miles away from the Christian Church. The second was the response. Any hostile letters or e-mails were greatly outweighed by those that expressed support. A number of these came from ministers or elders of the Kirk who were gay or lesbian or those who had gay, lesbian, bi-sexual or transgender relatives or close friends. This might be surprising to those who pretend that there are any elders, let alone ministers, who are not heterosexual! But sadly so many in the ministry live in fear of being “outed” and are unable to live with those whom they love deeply and to whom they are committed.
This climate of fear needs to be changed. If, despite the significant support from some of Scotland’s largest presbyteries such as Edinburgh or Glasgow, the recommendation of the Kirk’s Legal Affairs Committee is rejected, that will be more difficult. Yet until and unless the General Assembly forbids the blessing of gay partnerships (and it has always held back from that), ministers are free to exercise their pastoral ministry as their conscience dictates. I belong to the Iona Community. I know two other members who have lived in a committed loving partnership together almost as long as the 39 years in which I have enjoyed a committed and loving marriage. Together they have served others and work passionately for peace. To suggest that their relationship is condemned by God is for me an example of what a wise professor of divinity in the 1960s used to term “the nuttiness coefficient in the Church”. We can all trade interpretations on sexuality in the Bible. We can also ignore passages telling us to slay our enemies, stone a rebellious son or an adulterous woman (but not man) or take off any clothes with mixed fibres – these are all in the Bible.
When the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is attributed to homosexuality the offer by the “righteous” Lot of his young daughters for gang rape is conveniently forgotten. Much of this insults our intelligence and ignores the inclusive embracing of all by the founder of the Christian faith (who said much about abuse, cruelty, war and exploitation but nothing on same gender relationships). We have all too short memories of history. A former Moderator of the US Presbyterian Church, Jack Rogers, who describes himself as “an evangelical Christian,” has recently written a book titled Jesus, The Bible, and Homosexuality. In it he describes the justifications in his own land for slavery, racial superiority, and the denial of rights to women, commenting that no mainstream church today would dream of supporting these justifications. Rogers then argues for the Church today shedding its homophobia and including those of various sexuality and relationships. There were many Christians who believed that the abolition of slavery and rights for women and black people were fundamentally opposed to Christianity and would destroy society. Future generations will be amazed that we use the religion of love to condemn and exclude some of those who wish to celebrate their love for each other.
Those who seek to ban the blessing of gay relationships often claim that this alienates us from fellow Christians. The world church is divided on this issue but one of the world’s best loved church leaders, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, has stated publicly that the exclusion of gay and lesbian folk from the Church is akin to the apartheid system against which he courageously fought. The Reformed Church in the Netherlands has for some years accorded the same pension rights to partners of gay clergy as to spouses. That church has neither collapsed (it is now the Protestant Church in the Netherlands) nor been cut off from the world church.
I hope the Church of Scotland will resist any attempts to restrict its ministers in the exercise of their pastoral ministry. Our society has seen too many freedoms removed in recent years without the Kirk adding to them. But more than that I look forward to the day when ministers, elders, and members of all varieties in their God-given sexuality will be accepted, included, and free to be themselves and to love and serve others without fear.
• The Rev Dr Iain Whyte is a Church of Scotland minister. He has been a parish minister, University Chaplain, and Mental Health Community Chaplain.