This weekend will see two new LGBT Pride events happening in the Hebrides and Inverness as the Highlands and Islands bring a record-breaking Pride year to a close in Scotland.
Despite an initial petition signed by 600 locals who opposed a march on biblical grounds, Proud Ness is due to bring the rainbow colours to the Highland capital for the first time in 16 years, beginning with a march through the city at 9.30am from Falcon Square.
There will be a community expo, workshops and entertainment at the popular Eden Court venue. An after-party at the nearby Mercure Hotel will close off a day which is expected to attract over 2,000 people to the city.
Meanwhile, Scotland’s most northernly Pride (which was only announced a few weeks ago) has already drawn widespread and popular support on the Western Isles and on the mainland. Stornoway will host the first Hebridean Pride, with music and speeches at An Lanntair from 12noon before a march through the town at 1pm.
A family-friendly day of activities including stalls, local traders and entertainment will then kick-off at The Carlton Lounge after the march. A special LGBT Party Night will be held at the Era Nightclub from 10pm for those who want to keep the party going!
The Reverend Peter Nimmo, minister at Old High St Stephen’s Church in Inverness, will speak at the Proud Ness event, echoing a similar move by Rev. Scott Burton in Perth earlier this year.
Rev. Nimmo said it was an “honour” to be asked to speak at the Inverness event, which was given the go-ahead by Highland Council despite a petition by Donald Morrison, who objected to the march on grounds of immorality!
Speaking to STV News Rev. Nimmo said, “I was asked by the event organisers to say a few words at the start of the parade in order to show support for the LGBT community in Inverness and the Highlands.”
“I feel honoured to be invited and pleased to hear that a number of clergy from the Church of Scotland and other denominations will be attending. I would encourage as many ministers as possible to come along.”
Highland Council have also agreed to fly the rainbow flag from their HQ for Pride, following other local authorities who have done the same in previous years. A number of equality organisations will be attending the event, including Pink Saltire, with Scotland’s LGBT heritage timeline exhibition.
Over on the West coast, events in Stornoway have attracted support and press attention from across the country, with locals also picking up the rainbow flag in support of the event. Local radio station Isles FM created a special Pride playlist this week and Pride organisers also held an information stall at the local Lews Castle College (UHI) on Wednesday.
Proceeds raised at Hebridean Pride will go to mental health charity, Penumbra, who provide a number of services including self-directed support, peer work and respite for people across the country.
The event has not been without it’s critics though, with Minister of Stornoway Free Church (Continuing) describing the plans as “sad and shameful” and “nothing to be proud about” when speaking to the Press and Journal.
Despite the comments from some people of faith, both events will undoubtedly bring about a step-change in visibility and recognition of the LGBT+ community in more rural areas. Just as several successful events have done elsewhere in Scotland, such as Fife and West Lothian, so too will Proud Ness and Hebridean Pride bring LGBT folk out to proclaim their right to exist openly and without prejudice.
2018 has been a remarkable year for LGBT Pride in Scotland – from just 4 main events last year to 13 this year! New events have been held in Aberdeen, Perth, Dumfries, Bute, Dundee, Inverness and Stornoway, joining existing Prides in Fife, Glasgow (plus Free Pride), Edinburgh and Livingston. The first Trans Pride Scotland was held in March this year and there are plans for more areas to hold Pride events in 2019.
Pink Saltire continue to support the Pride movement and see these events as a critical pillar of changing local hearts and minds. For many in our cities, equality and being open about our sexuality and gender might be taken for granted, but for many in Scotland’s rural and semi-rural areas, fear of prejudice and negative attitudes still have a detrimental impact on LGBT people.
Pride is a celebration of diversity and a vehicle for social change – one we cannot afford to let slip away for those communities just starting out on that road towards acceptance and away from prejudice. Pride is just as important today as it has ever been. We wish the organisers all the very best for their big events this weekend!