Politicians and LGBT+ campaigners gather at the Scottish Parliament for the PinkNews summer reception in Edinburgh
A host of politicians from across the ideological spectrum gathered alongside LGBT+ activists on Wednesday (June 20) at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh.
Scottish Conservatives leader Ruth Davidson, Secretary for Equalities Angela Constance and a host of other prominent politicians spoke on current LGBT+ issues, celebrated the achievements of Scotland’s LGBT+ community and highlighted what is still to be done at the PinkNews summer reception in Edinburgh, supported by Virgin Money and DLA Piper.
Davidson told the audience: “In my lifetime, people could be prosecuted for being in a loving same-sex relationship… we’ve seen these same couples who could have been prosecuted now able to marry their partner.
“And if we look at societal change, it’s even greater than that – I’m standing here leader of political party, a pregnant lesbian, my office is full of bibs and babygros and baby products,” she added, to applause from the audience.
“I still get hate mail, everyone does,” she added, “but it’s vastly outweighed by the kindness and support that we see all around the country.”
A cross-party group of Scottish politicians gathered at the second of many regional receptions held by PinkNews to debate LGBT+ topics from education to same-sex marriage.
Secretary for Equalities Angela Constance vowed to “tackle the underlying attitudes and inequalities that continue to exist in society” at the Edinburgh event.
The Scottish National Party cabinet minister paid tribute to the “tireless work” performed by activists, but said “there remains more to do.”
Constance, 47, told the attendees that despite having taken great strides towards equality – for instance by allowing men convicted under historical anti-gay laws to receive a pardon – there was still “work to do” for her country.
“I am clear that no-one should ever experience discrimination of prejudice in relation to their sexual orientation or their gender identity, and I am also clear that we have some distance yet to travel to ensure that the lived experience of LGBTI people matches the progress that we have made in law,” she said.
Constance, who has been Secretary for Equalities since 2016, added: “We very strongly believe that until we live in a society where no one experiences hate, fear or discrimination because of their sexual orientation or their gender identity, there remains much, much more to do.
“And that means that we tackle the underlying attitudes and inequalities that continue to exist in our society so that everyone is empowered to fulfil their potential.”
The leader of the Scottish Labour Party, Richard Leonard, called for a renewed effort from LGBT+ allies in challenging discrimination and demanding equality at the reception.
Leonard said: “Tomorrow marks the 18th anniversary of the repeal of Section 28, which in turn reminds us that every generation has to fight some of same battles, so we all need to be vigilant and keep demanding equality.
“Just as women’s equality should not be fought by women alone, neither should LGBT rights: it’s for all of us to do that.”
Leonard went on to comment on the current challenges, violence and discrimination facing LGBT+ people in Russia, currently playing host to the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
“The World Cup is currently taking place in Russia at the moment,” he said.
“And many people see that as a game of skill, entertainment and so on. But Russia is also a place where LGBT rights are under attack.
“So-called ‘gay propaganda’ has been outlawed, leading to a fourfold increase in the number of assaults. We can’t take things for granted: we need to keep making the case for equality and tolerance.”
Leonard also used his speech to call for everyone – LGBT+ people and allies alike- to support LGBT+ charities, saying: “We need to support organisations like TIE, the Rock Trust and Stonewall: organisations that provide practical help for people at the time they need it.”
He concluded his speech by saying: “It’s not enough to be accepted, it’s not enough to be tolerated, it’s about everybody being properly included,” a statement that received a loud round of applause from the crowd.
Scottish Green Party co-convener Patrick Harvie told the attendees that “it’s not enough to say we’ve come a long way.
“I’m impatient to stand here in awe of what the next generation do.”
As well as hearing from leading politicians and campaigners, nominees for the community group of the year award at this year’s PinkNews Awards were announced.
The award, sponsored by JustGiving, recognises the contributions of organisations which campaign for LGBT+ rights at home and abroad.
The nominees for the third sector equality award were also revealed last night at the Scottish Parliament.
The award, sponsored by Amazon, recognises the contributions of third sector organisations which campaign for LGBT+ rights at home and abroad.
More from PinkNews
Earlier this month a host of politicians from across the political spectrum gathered alongside LGBT+ activists at the Welsh Assembly in Cardiff, in the first of the PinkNews summer receptions.
The First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones, championed inclusive sex and relationship education (SRE). “The world has moved on,” he said ahead of taking to the stage. Mr Jones then told the audience: “Too often we just assume the LGBT community know politicians are on their side.”
Nominees for the PinkNews Award for public sector equality were also announced at the event at the Welsh Assembly.