A young gay couple from Aberdeen have been discriminated against by a national bus company for the second time in six months.
Mark Craig, 20, and Steven Black, 16, from Old Meldrum in Aberdeenshire, claim that when they attempted to catch the last Stagecoach bus from Aberdeen back to Old Meldrum on January 11th, the driver opened the doors, looked at them, and then closed the doors and drove off.
Mr Craig said: “The bus arrived at around 11:30. It pulled in to the bus stop as Steven and I were waiting.
“The bus doors opened slightly and the driver looked at us then looked around him and closed the doors and drove off leaving us standing on the street in the freezing cold.
“It was the same driver that tried to kick us off for hugging in the back of the bus last year.”
Last October Mark and Steven were on the last Stagecoach bus of the night from Aberdeen to Old Meldrum, when the driver suddenly stopped the bus and demanded they get off, supposedly at the request of a fellow passenger, for sitting with their arm around each other.
The driver then forced Mark and Steven to separate before continuing on the journey.
Stagecoach spokesman Steve Stewart told PinkNews.co.uk:
“We received a complaint from a customer that a driver left a bus stop in Berryden Road, Aberdeen, on Friday 11 January 2008, without allowing two passengers to board the service.
“We take all complaints seriously and we have investigated the circumstances regarding this case.
“Following a thorough investigation, including a review of CCTV footage, we have established that the driver clearly failed to follow our procedures.
“As a result, we have taken appropriate disciplinary action and we have made a full apology to the customers concerned.
“We have also given the customers complimentary tickets providing a week’s free travel.
“In spite of their experience, we hope they will continue to use our services and we look forward to welcoming them on board in the future.
“Stagecoach is a high quality bus operator and we will not hesitate to take action where there is evidence of any employee not living up to the high standards of service we expect and our customers deserve.”
Today Mark told PinkNews.co.uk that he had received a letter from Stagecoach.
“We are not very happy because this has happened twice already and they have given us free bus travel but the ticket has expired. It is not a week’s free travel but only a one trip ticket.”
In October the Scottish Socialist Party organised a mass email campaign to Stagecoach’s Director of Corporate Communications, Steven Stewart.
Hundreds of gay rights activists and ordinary members of the public contacted Mr Stewart, asking for an apology for illegally discriminating against the couple.
A spokesperson for the SSP said: “Stagecoach ignored all of these requests, and made it clear that they thought the driver had done nothing wrong, and had stood by him 100%; accusing everyone else of not knowing the facts of the case.”
Mr Stewart said at the time that Stagecoach bus drivers get diversity training which includes “the type of situations they would face in terms of carrying different people.”
He did not know if that training specifically addresses LGBT issues but stressed that the company does not discriminate in any way.
Today Queer Youth Network, the national organisation for LGBT Youth, called for a boycott of Stagecoach services.
The Stagecoach Group bus and train operating company is the second-largest in the UK with 16% of the bus market and 11% of the rail market.
It is part-owned by one of Scotland’s most notorious opponents of gay equality, Brian Souter.
In 2000 Mr Souter, an evangelical Christian, donated half a million pounds to a campaign in Scotland to uphold Section 28, which banned the “promotion of homosexuality” in schools.
He cited his religious beliefs as justification for his actions, insisting he is not homophobic.
Mr Souter is a member of the Church of the Nazarene, a Methodist sect.
In 2000, he funded a “poll” of Scottish voters, sending out nearly four million ballot papers on the repeal of Section 28. The campaign failed in its objective.
Reporting by Gemma Pritchard.