EXCLUSIVE: UNITY AMONG SCOTLAND’S PRIDE ORGANISERS AS THEY APPEAL FOR GOVERNMENT SUPPORT

Scotland’s LGBT Pride organisers have joined forces for the first time as they make a call for the Scottish Government to support the growing sector.

Representatives from 8 Pride groups around the country have now written to ministers with suggestions on how they can help increase tourism and boost the economy in local areas, as well as maintain the hugely positive effect on changing local attitudes towards LGBT people Pride events can have.

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Despite a very welcome investment of nearly £1million per year in LGBT work by the Scottish Government, no Pride groups receive any Government help, with support being offered mainly to the national equality groups such as Stonewall, LGBT Youth Scotland and Equality Network.

Pride organisers from Glasgow, Edinburgh, West Lothian and Fife have joined with newer bodies in Dumfries & Galloway, Perthshire, Dundee and Aberdeen to press Equalities Secretary, Angela Constance, and Tourism Secretary, Fiona Hyslop, to help them improve the financial stability of Pride events, and to consider options to improve Scotland’s appeal to the LGBT tourist in the UK and abroad.

Cred - Dunf Camera Club 6With the exception of Pride Glasgow, no other Pride organisation in Scotland have any paid staff. All rely heavily on the efforts of volunteers and fundraising within the community all year round, often facing significant charges by authorities for road closures and use of public spaces.

Funding can often be limited in the size of the grant available and is rarely made on a recurring basis, meaning organisers face a never-ending struggle to make ends meet. Most organisers support the principle that Pride should remain as financially inclusive for everyone in the community as possible, therefore making events free is a priority, but this means income through tickets is restricted or non-existant.

Pride is increasingly seen as a vital element in tackling discriminatory attitudes towards LGBT people in local communities, providing a high profile platform to talk about ongoing issues such as homophobia, bullying, poor service provision and hate crime. Until as recently as 2014, only Edinburgh and Glasgow regularly held Pride events in Scotland.

The reality for businesses and local authorities, however, is that Pride is often assessed on the wider impact it can have on a particular area, especially in financial terms. In difficult economic times, large festival events can and do have a positive effect beyond their social and cultural roots.

The importance of community Pride events for tourism and the local economy was highlighted last year in the results of a study in Fife, which held its first region-wide Pride event in Kirkcaldy in July 2017. The one day march and festival attracted an estimated 3000 people coming together to celebrate diversity and being proud of who they are, with over 10% of those attending coming from outside the region. The study demonstrated a near-£150,000 boost for local trade on the day, benefitting hotels, shops and businesses in the former industrial town.

It’s estimated Pride events in 2018 could generate over £2million for Scotland’s economy, with UK domestic tourism being seen as a source of untapped potential.

Richard McArthur, Co-Convener of Fife Pride said, “The Scottish Government need to go further than merely acknowledging that Pride events take place, or turning up to give a speech. We need practical support to maintain and grow events – the benefits are significant, with improved attitudes locally and an appreciation for diversity that cant be achieved through legislation alone.”

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Nicola Sturgeon addresses Pride Glasgow crowds in 2017

Claire Mackenzie, the Co-Chair of Perthshire Pride, a new organisation set-up to celebrate diversity in Perth & Kinross region in 2017, said, “In areas where little to no LGBT+ community exists, residents who identify as LGBT+ can feel left behind, alone, neglected, and unable to reach their full potential at the fear of being rejected and isolated due to their differences. Community events like Pride bring a sense of togetherness and inclusion for the whole community, regardless of sexual orientation, where people are free to be themselves and know they are not alone. This has benefits on people’s mental health, sense of worth and engagement within the community. It’s a celebration of our differences that bring the community together as one.”

David Sinclair, Trustee with Pride Glasgow said, “Pride events in Scotland are growing, with a record number of events set for 2018. Whilst LGBTI awareness and support is growing, we still have a long way to go.  We should continue to set the benchmark for other countries in the UK and around the World on LGBTI equality and Pride is a very important part of that. The Scottish Government can help enhance the work of Pride organisers and enable us to maintain links with the communities we serve.”

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Angela Constance addresses Edinburgh Pride march in 2017

Tommy Small, the new Co-Chair at Dundee Pride, who are due to hold their first Pride event later in 2018, told us, “At Dundee Pride we were delighted to see Nicola Sturgeon’s support for LGBT young people in her New Year’s message as we embark on the Year of Young People. We believe it’s of the utmost importance for Scotland’s Pride organisers to gain the support of the Scottish Government as part of this important year, demonstrating to our young LGBT people that they are valued, equal and important members of society.  This support could enable Pride events across the country to reach a much wider audience which we believe will build a stronger, more cohesive society.”

Scotland’s Pride organisers are part of a UK-wide network of over 130 Pride events, many of which promote their local area for weekend breaks for the lucrative LGBT tourism market.  Addressing the crowds at the Edinburgh Pride march in June 2017, Equalities Secretary, Angela Constance MSP, said the Government would “put its money where its mouth is” on LGBT+ equality.

And the impact of improved Government support could reach much further afield – in a study by Equality Network and Visit Scotland, 68% of international tourists surveyed said they would rate Scotland as an LGBT-friendly destination and 81% cited the legal protections for LGBT people as one of the most critical factors in deciding on a holiday destination. The international LGBT tourism market value is estimated at over £5billion per year and Scotland’s businesses are not maximising their potential to exploit Scotland’s place in LGBT protections.

Pride organisers have asked the Government to consider supporting a national tourism campaign to promote Scotland as a destination for LGBT tourists throughout the year.

As public spending comes under increasing pressure, local authorities have been less able to provide cash to support events, although West Lothian Council and Fife Council have been particularly supportive of events in their respective areas. Glasgow City Council have also made positive statements about the future relationship with Pride organisers in the city, following the change of administration to the SNP last May.

It’s local people in communities around the country who are hailed as the biggest ‘winners’ from an expanding LGBT Pride network in Scotland. As LGBT people get organised and capitalise on this new-found confidence, they become the change they’ve  campaigned for in their own communities for years – tackling local discrimination and providing a local face for equality and diversity up and down the country.

The Pride movement, built on defiance of the status quo and long-run campaigning for equality, now has a local voice in places never before thought of as a hot-bed of political campaigning – instead they are a catalyst for change in communities, challenging stereotypes and discriminatory behaviours, with local LGBT people joining equality and cultural groups to demonstrate their commitment to equality in a way that fits local needs.

Pink Saltire have directly supported the creation of new Pride events, through community consultations, in Perthshire, Fife and Dundee in 2017 and were proud to co-sign the letter to the Scottish Government alongside Scotland’s pride organisers.

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