More than 70,000 people took part in 21 Pride events around Scotland last year – the highest ever number of participants and up 52% on 2018, according to a new report from Pink Saltire!
In the year we marked the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, people in communities around the country took part in marches and events for LGBT+ rights in numbers never before seen in Scotland.
The Scottish Pride Report 2019 details the “outstanding work” of more than 500 Pride volunteers who contributed over 8,000 hours by organising fundraisers, discos, community stalls, live acts and of course the Pride marches themselves.
Primarily a protest at the inequality still faced by LGBT people, as well as the more recent growing risk to our rights here and abroad, Pride remains a hugely significant cultural moment in the lives of more and more LGBT+ folk.
Gone are the days of Pride being the exclusive gift of the big cities like Edinburgh and Glasgow – now we have hugely successful Pride’s in much smaller communities, covering many rural parts of Scotland too, like the events in Fife, Dumfries, West Lothian and the Highlands.
These Pride events are essential if we are to truly embed the legislative changes into towns and villages that we’ve campaigned for (and won) over many years. It’s often said smaller communities take longer to catch up with the pace of life in modern cities, but there are LGBT+ people living in every corner of Scotland and the increase in visibility which these local Pride events bring cannot be overstated.
Pride becomes a springboard for other services locally, as we’ve experienced in places like Fife and Perthshire. New social groups for LGBT adults, youth groups and sports organisations have popped up in these areas where there are successful Pride events. The efforts of groups like Highland Pride, who are holding a month of Winter Pride events this year and attracted more than 10,000 people to their march in 2019, often go unacknowledged in the national context of ongoing political discussion. But what they do is essential to efforts which reduce isolation, improve visibility and create a chance for people to really understand LGBT+ lives.
Overall though, there’s also a much more effective conversation with local partners, such as local Councils, the NHS and Police Scotland, about the needs of LGBT people leading to a better understanding of how services and facilities can be shaped – Pride creates opportunities and we should embrace them!
The report also identifies that Pride events have a major positive impact on the local economy, worth over £2million in 2019, with lots of organisers using a new online tool to calculate the impact of their events. Despite the positive social impact, some Councils have looked to the economic numbers in their justification for support of Pride, especially in these times of budget cuts.
One person who faced the challenge of funding and organising their first ever Pride march last year was Phill Dexter from Oban. Despite the typical Scottish spring weather (it was lashing down!) the community enjoyed a fantastic day in May 2019 with over 450 people marching through the town and even a cruise ship moored in the bay taking part, with rainbow flags and loud blasts on the fog horn!
Phill told us that the support of the Scottish Pride Organisers Network, which Pink Saltire coordinate, had been invaluable to the success of their first event:
“Oban Pride held our inaugural event in May 2019, we felt that it was important for Oban to have our own Pride as we felt that having to travel to major cities in Scotland to be able to celebrate our history and culture, as well as the fight for equal rights, didn’t give everybody the opportunity to be included”, he said.
“Oban Pride has had amazing support from the moment we started planning from a number of organisations including Waverley Care, Pink Saltire and the Scottish Pride Organisers Network. Without the support of these organisations we would still be stumbling around trying to get Oban Pride up and running!”
“Having the backing of Pink Saltire and the Pride Organisers Network was an amazing support to us as we could turn and ask for help and advice from people who had experience in setting up and running Pride events. It’s wonderful that all the Scottish Prides can come together to share knowledge and information, no matter how long you’ve been involved with the Pride movement.”
The Pride movement in Scotland has seen a huge increase in events over just a few years, with only 5 in 2017, 13 in 2018 and 21 last year!
In 2020, the year we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the first Scottish Pride march, there are likely to be more than 25 events in communities across Scotland, from Orkney to Dumfries.
As more and more communities build in confidence and more dedicated local activists step forward to start arranging their own Pride event, the work to support these worthwhile and important efforts continues.
Emily Love is taking the lead in her community, hoping to organise the first Dunoon Pride later this year. She said the reaction to the announcement from locals has been extremely positive so far:
“Seeing the success of the other Pride events in Scotland is really what made me take the plunge to start organising one in Dunoon. As soon as I announced it, people wanted to be involved straight away!”
“Pink Saltire has given me some excellent advice which has helped me get other people involved that might not otherwise be able to, since we’re in such a rural area. Other Pride organisers (especially other rural folk) have contacted me to show their support – we’re all planning to go to each other’s events and help out where we can!”
Challenges for event organisers remain though, despite the success of volunteers around the country. Sustained income for the main events, as well as strategic capacity building and support to deliver on their local ambitions through the year, are some of the main issues Pride organisers tell us they face.
At the moment, despite the social, community and cultural benefits of supporting Pride events, there is no Scottish Government funding for the sector and only a handful of Councils have been able to support with cash, therefore it’s no wonder organisers look to the business world to help them cover the costs of security, fencing, first aid, publicity and many other costs associated with organising a safe event for hundreds or thousands of people.
Each team of volunteers, whether long established or just starting out, begin their year with a huge task ahead and these events are only put together with hard (unpaid) work and a big sacrifice of time from a dedicated group of local people.
Pride will remain front and centre in the fight to protect and extend LGBT+ rights in Scotland and beyond. It’s our chance to shout, to protest, to celebrate wins and progress, but above all else to remain VISIBLE in our communities.
So in 2020, make sure you support your local Pride – put a few quid in the collection tins, buy some merchandise locally on the day rather than send your cash to Amazon, say thanks to the volunteers and speak up when your local Pride need more help or input. It’s all worth it.
The full list of Scottish Pride dates is available here and will be updated as events are announced.