The Scottish Government has said there will be no opportunity for LGBT Pride events to benefit from an increase in equalities funding in 2018.
Organisers of ten planned Pride events, from Aberdeen to Dumfries, had asked the Government to look at establishing a fund to make organising the diversity events more sustainable. All Pride organisers rely on voluntary fundraising and charitable grants, usually only available on a year-by-year basis.
The response comes after Pride bodies, many of them registered charities, including Pride Glasgow and Pride Edinburgh, submitted a joint letter to Equalities Secretary, Angela Constance and Culture Secretary, Fiona Hyslop. It’s estimated Pride events will attract over 50,000 people and generate over £2million for the Scottish economy this year, but most organisers struggle to fund events and balance the principle of keeping them free and inclusive for everyone.
Pride started as a protest and its roots remain in political activism, demanding equality for everyone under the LGBT+ umbrella and offering a chance for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people (and our allies) to be seen and heard by local communities. Pride is evolving too, especially here in Scotland where we lead the world in many of our hard-won rights.
The Scottish Government’s new budget for 2018/19 proposes a 12% increase in the funding available for equalities work around the country, worth a total of £22.7million for the year. Funding for LGBT equality groups is restricted to strategic work in half a dozen organisations and accounts for just under £1million.
A written response from the Government’s equalities unit read “The increase in resource for 2018-19 will support specific initiatives such as Programme for Government commitments and legislation and other strategic work, including British Sign Language, social isolation and loneliness and human rights. As such, there will not be an opportunity for equality organisations to submit bids for funding.”
The response went on to offer “other forms of non-financial support” such as statements of support or Ministers attendance at Pride events, diaries permitting. The Government also offered to develop relations with tourism officials, in a bid to show Scotland as a positive LGBT holiday destination from other parts of the UK and abroad.
Reviewing the Government’s response to Pride organisers, Jamie Greene MSP from the Scottish Conservatives said:
“There seems to be a lot of warm words and well wishes for the LGBT community in Scotland from the SNP government, but warm words do not equate to action. It’s appropriate that some extra funding is allocated to these important events, especially given the rise in the equalities budget. Nobody is asking for extra money, just that existing money is spent in the right places.”
“I have been very proud to march at both Glasgow and Edinburgh pride events and have even spoken on stage at a number of them. Instead of just waving rainbow flags and paying lip service to the community, the Scottish government should put its money where its mouth is.”
Kezia Dugdale, Labour MSP for Edinburgh told us:
“Pride events can help change attitudes towards LGBT people, as well as helping to increase local tourism and boost local economies.
“This year is going to be a record year for Pride events in Scotland, and that is something to celebrate as we strive for greater equality.
“But attending events can cost money and while the Scottish Government’s increase in the equality budget is very welcome, it is a little disappointing that equality organisations will not be able to submit bids for funding from this extra resource.
“I want as many people and groups as possible to be able to take part in Pride events and hope the government will work hard to help organisations overcome any financial barriers.”
Patrick Harvie MSP, Co-Convener of the Scottish Greens, said:
“The case for funding LGBTI organisations, including Pride, is really strong on community grounds. Especially outside of Scotland’s biggest cities, Pride events can play a huge role both in bringing our community together and in raising our wider visibility. I’d encourage the Scottish Government to look again at the options for supporting Pride events around the country, on the grounds of their immense social and political value.”
The first ever Fife Pride was held in the former industrial town of Kirkcaldy in July 2017, breaking all expectations for attendance with over 3500 people marching through the town centre in a show of solidarity for equality in the Kingdom. Pride Co-Convener, Richard McArthur commented on the Governments letter by saying,
“We’ve opened up the channels of communication, which is to be acknowledged as a positive move – there are Pride organisers all over the World who would love to have as supportive a Government as we do. However, if we are to achieve this goal of being a beacon of LGBT equality, then Pride must be a fundamental part of the plan. We cannot simply spend money on talking about equality – Pride is equality in action and much more of that is needed to tackle the stigma and discrimination which still exist around the country. We hope the Government will come to agree with us that funding Pride organisers is an essential step on that path.”
Equalities Secretary, Angela Constance MSP, helped launch the Pride Edinburgh parade outside Holyrood in June 2017 by saying, “This Scottish Government puts its money where its mouth is” and her boss, Nicola Sturgeon, became the first ever First Minister or Prime Minister to address a Pride event, taking to the stage at Pride Glasgow in August 2017. The First Minister said she would ensure the Government would “do everything we need to do, to be THE best country in the World for LGBT people.”
It is widely acknowledged that Scotland is one of the best countries in Europe for LGBTI equality, with significant protections and equality enshrined in law.
But the irony is of course, without the ability to exercise those rights, to march as one voice to champion further advances in gender recognition or to bring communities together to eradicate discrimination and hate crime, those laws are limited in their impact. Pride organisers face charges of over £4000 to hold marches in different parts of the country.
Brett Herriot, Chair at Pride Edinburgh, which relies on donations and sponsors from the city and remains a free event, said:
“We are saddened by the response from the Scottish Government which confirms no financial support will be made available to Pride events around Scotland, despite an increase in funding for the equalities portfolio. Once again we are simply offered access to MSP’s diaries when we already welcome a wide body of politicians to our events.”
“Words are not enough – we require incentive funding to sustain Pride and to further our work in spreading the message of universal acceptance, irrespective of sexuality or gender. It is indeed a sad indictment that the Parliament housed in our own city wont do more to engage and support our work. We welcome the opportunity to have an ongoing conversation to improve matters as we strive for equality and a better Scotland for all.”
In Glasgow, which is the largest LGBT Pride event in the country, the event has been ticketed for several years to help cover the considerable costs incurred for such a large festival. Organisers attracted over 18,500 people to their Glasgow Green event in 2017, with over 40% travelling from around Scotland and beyond, generating a huge economic boost for the city over the 2-day festival.
Pride Glasgow Trustee, David Sinclair said:
“2018 is going to be a great year for the LGBTI+ community in Scotland, in particular with so many Pride events starting up across the country. The [Scottish Government] response is a disappointment, moreso for the smaller Pride events who, without core funding, will continue to struggle every year. Pride Glasgow costs in excess of £160,000 annually and the lack of funding is one of the main reasons for us introducing ticketing in 2013.”
In a year where more communities than ever are taking the fight for equality on to the streets, plans are underway in Dundee for the city’s first ever Pride event and organisers have been faced with the challenge of raising more than £30,000 to pay for an event that brings the LGBT community together. Pride Co-Chair, Tim Kelly commented:
“Though we applaud the Government’s commitment to advancing equality, diversity and inclusion in Scottish society, we are disappointed that they are not able to financially support the growing Pride movement in Scotland. We welcome their commitment to non-financial support and hope that Ministers can participate in our Pride event.”
A new Pride event is also planned for the Dumfries & Galloway region later this year and Chair of ‘DG Pride’, Justin Thomas, commented:
“Although we are one of the new Pride events, we fully understand the ongoing issues of continual funding and we hope that the Scottish Government may look into options on how to establish this fully in time. A reliable source of investment would be a welcome starting point when we set out to build our events each year, especially for such rural areas as ours, where we cant rely on bucket shakes in any gay bars or venues.”
A Pride event has also been held in West Lothian since 2015 and organisers have built a strong relationship with the local authority who have helped support the event since its launch, but finances have been very tight, with events limited to a budget under £3000. A spokesperson told us, “We acknowledge the response received from the Scottish Government and we hope that our local MSP’s will indeed support our Pride on Saturday 28th July, either by attending the event personally or providing statements of support that we can use to promote the event.”
You can see all the planned Pride dates on our dedicated page, here.