An opinion piece by Stuart Duffy, Founder of Pink Saltire
We need to have an honest conversation about funding for LGBT+ work in Scotland.
Over recent years one thing has become clear to many of us – Scotland has ambitions to be a world-leading country for LGBT+ rights. The Scottish Parliament have passed equal marriage, adoption rights, gender recognition reforms, agreed to introduce inclusive education in all schools and the First Minister has publicly apologised for past discrimination against gay/bi men – all extremely important and very welcome moves.
Pioneering work over many decades has led us to where we are now – work by groups like Equality Network, Stonewall Scotland, LGBT Youth Scotland, LGBT Health & Wellbeing and many many others – these victories have been hard fought.
In 2019 we can see that most of our politicians and policy makers have a better understanding about LGBT issues, with a huge shift in awareness amongst the general public too, who are now more likely than ever to accept someone in a same-sex relationship in their family.
A positive consequence of these fundamental changes in societal attitudes are that LGBT people feel more confident than ever to be open about their identity and rightfully expect services to meet their specific needs, whether in the NHS, schools, the workplace or in the community. But have services such as local authorities or the NHS really done enough to meet the needs of their LGBT customers and service users and how are we funding those services?
In 2019 the fight for equality continues at significant pace – a fight against discrimination (2018 figures show LGBT+ hate crimes at their highest ever level); a fight against bullying and abuse in our schools (TIE research identified 90% of LGBT pupils had faced homo/bi/transphobia at school); a fight to stem the poor mental health of LGBT people (LGBT Youth figures in 2018 show 84% of LGBT young people had experienced mental health problems, 50% had suicidal thoughts); and a fight for representation in every corner of Scotland (Equality Network figures from 2015 show 47% of LGBT people felt isolated in rural communities).
In our experience, there are large gaps in provision across the country. Representation of LGBT+ people is patchy at best, with inconsistent delivery of services to meet the needs of rural and urban populations.
Work is funded through 2 core routes – public funds from central or local government and grants/donations from trusts or corporate funders. In 2018 we outlined how National Lottery funding was a critical component to the funding of smaller groups around the country, who receive no core funding and rely on project-by-project year-by-year funding applications. The Lottery are just one of hundreds of individual funders of course, but from experience, this can be a lengthy and energy-sapping process with some funders, taking significant time and resources to continually seek out the right funder and submit a successful bid. Ofcourse funds don’t exist to employ professional fundraisers or bid writers for LGBT groups, it’s all done by volunteers.
Very few local authorities fund any LGBT work, with the exception of LGBT youth work services which are mainly provided by LGBT Youth Scotland in a number of Council areas around the country. Government funding comes mainly from the Scottish Government’s Equalities portfolio – the national and intermediary bodies fund and the promoting equalities and cohesion fund.
The Scottish Government receive a block grant from Westminster and so offering groups any certainty around multi-year funding had been impossible since the block grant value can never be guaranteed. However, in 2017, the government took the bold step and moved to a new 3-year funding deal for equalities funding in Scotland, creating some certainty for those organisations who were successful in their bid, but also closing the door on any new funding until 2020 for other groups.
In the year to March 2019, The Scottish Government provided almost £1million in funding through its Equalities unit to these LGBT organisations:
Equality Network – £230,000
Equality Network Intersex project – £45,000
Stonewall Scotland – £100,000
Scottish Trans Alliance – £200,000
LGBT Youth Scotland – £260,000
LGBT Youth Scotland Women & Girls project – £40,000
LGBT Health & Wellbeing Age project – £60,000
LGBT Health & Wellbeing LGBT Helpline – £20,000
LEAP Sports – £38,800
Additional funding from other departments also flowed to LGBT organisations. Ofcourse this money isn’t just handed on a plate to these groups – they work hard to win the support of Government ministers and officials to bring their plans to fruition. Most have an established track record and have delivered successful project or policy work in the past. All of the groups listed could do even more if funds were available too.
Meanwhile, with an increasing confidence in communities caused partly by the introduction of new legislation and the positive change in society’s views (that the Government has championed for so long), the LGBT sector has continued to evolve and expand to meet the needs of our community right across the country.
LGBT people are calling out for more specific services in their local community which are closer to them, rather than predominantly in Glasgow or Edinburgh. Just look at the growth in community Pride events over the past few years – from just 3 events in 2016 to 13 in 2018. No Pride events receive Government funding yet they have become the main vehicle for embedding social change in communities around the country.
New organisations have been launched to help meet the demand too, but continually face the challenge of appropriate funding sources to deliver the services needed.
Community-led, hard-working and passionate LGBT groups like Four Pillars in Aberdeen, like Scottish Borders LGBT, like Ayrshire LGBT or the Highland LGBT Forum – groups who are keen to deliver services which meet the needs of their local community but face funding barriers to make it a reality. Groups like these, like Pride organisers, like sports groups and professional networks all play a vital part in making our communities more inclusive, representative and safer for LGBT people.
Even those groups with a higher public profile, such as the TIE Campaign and yes, Pink Saltire too, face significant funding challenges in order to deliver the services we know are urgently needed if we are to achieve our shared ambitions of making Scotland a fantastic place to be LGBT. The dire honest truth is our charities will cease to exist without core funding to employ the staff to deliver the services people say they need.
By comparison, earlier in the year, the Conservative UK Government committed an extra £1million of funding for LGBT services in England as part of their LGBT Action Plan. Scotland has no similar plan for the delivery of services here or commitments of extra funding to meet the needs of our community.
The LGBT movement in Scotland needs an open and honest discussion about the challenges the community face and how these will be met by the skilled organisations we are lucky to have in our small country. This isn’t a discussion about moving pennies around from one group to another, but about strategic and structural change which delivers real benefits for ALL of our communities right around the country.
We cannot let the momentum of our movement, built up over many years and on the backs of passionate and dedicated LGBT activists, somehow fade away now. If we are to tackle rising hate crime, social isolation, bullying, worse health outcomes, LGBT discrimination and a lack of inclusion in community life, we need to invest in action sooner rather than later.
We encourage The Scottish Government, local authorities, LGBT organisations and the community to get involved in the discussion and lets make change happen together.