Three local equalities charities have raised concerns with Perth & Kinross Council after one of its employees was reported to have said LGBT+ organisations were campaigning to lower the age of consent to age 10.
Pink Saltire, Perthshire Pride and PKAVS Third Sector Interface wrote to the Council’s Acting Chief Executive, Barbara Renton, and Council Leader, Murray Lyle, on 12th April, but say they have been frustrated by the length of time taken to respond. The charities believe the smear risks the positive reputation around equalities which the Council and its partners have worked so hard to cultivate over recent years.
The issue concerns an employee, who the charities are not naming publicly for legal reasons, who was found to have made false allegations against LGBT+ organisations at a political conference during the Scottish Parliament election.
The claims were immediately discredited by the organisations named as completely untrue. The same employee’s name was also linked to calls to defund LGBT+ organisations and in refuting ‘queer theory’.
On 24 June 2021, 11 weeks from the initial concern being raised, Perth and Kinross Council communicated that they have upheld the complaint, in so far as to confirm what was said, and that it was untrue. The charities are now calling for further action, including an apology and retraction from the employee in question.
Despite widespread calls for an apology and withdrawal of the comments, the individual has yet to do so.
In a joint statement released on Wednesday 30 June, the charities said:
“It is disappointing to us that an employee of Perth & Kinross Council, particularly one with a key role working with families and communities, would espouse such dangerous rhetoric, which contradicts the values of dignity and respect enshrined within our shared Community Plan. In developing that plan, community partners were agreed that promoting equality and supporting those protected by equalities legislation was a key priority.”
“We remain concerned that the lack of responsibility from this individual presents a real risk of seriously undermining the local partnerships which have undertaken positive work around equalities in recent years, and feel a responsibility to our stakeholders and beneficiaries, in the third sector and our local communities, to impress upon Perth & Kinross Council the seriousness of this issue.”
“We have therefore decided to withdraw from equalities work with Perth & Kinross Council for a period of 30 days.”
“We note the Council’s intention to review the complaints process to ensure a more effective system in the future, and look forward to working with them to redesign this process. However, the response from PKC on this occasion, and particularly the length of time taken to provide that response, casts significant doubt on Perth & Kinross Council’s ability to protect LGBT people, and others, from emotional distress.”