The Scout Association has revealed plans to increase its amount of gay members and leaders.
In a move which they say will hopefully banish the idea that gay people would not be welcome among its half-a-million-strong ranks, an anti-bullying video has been produced along with plans to allow scouts to wear their uniforms to Gay Pride marches and parades.
Inevitably, the idea has been criticised by those who claim this move will shift the focus away from the Association’s “Christian Values”.
In the video produced by the Association, Wayne Bulpitt, the Scout’s Chief Commissioner says: “Bullying is wrong on every level, not just for the person being bullied, but for the bully too.
“In Scouting we believe that all young people, irrespective of their sexuality, gender, race, creed or background, have an equal opportunity to develop and to be themselves.”
The Association’s spokesman, Simon Carter, added: “There was an assumption that being gay meant you couldn’t be part of the movement. That was never the case and we are keen to make it clear that we accept people of any particular orientation.
“We have had youth members and adults attend Pride events and plan to do so again this year. It shows that we are not just taking about it but are demonstrating our support publicly.”
A series of advisory leaflets have also been produced, aimed at those offering counselling to young people. One says: “Coming out is a major decision in your life. You may decide to tell your family, a friend, your teacher or a Scout leader.
“There is nothing wrong with being gay and being a Scout and the person that you tell should be supportive and non-judgemental to what you are telling them.”
However, John Cormack of the Scottish Christian Party said he did not support the move: “My reaction to this is one of dismay and I suspect many other people will also be deeply concerned.
“Sexual morality is an area where the parents should be taking the lead, not the Scouts. This is a huge step-change away from the Christian founding ethos of the Scout movement.”
The Association ended its ban on female members in 1991, but still does not officially permit atheists or agnostics.