We’re Doing Something

EDINBURGH: People working for homosexual law reform in Scotland were astonished to read GN11’s Editorial which — while making very pertinent points on Age of Consent and the heavy task ahead for those who will be promoting sexual law reform in the UK — failed to take account of progress in Scotland in 1972.

The main work has been carried out by the Scottish Minorities Group (Law Reform subcommittee), and by some office-bearers of the Scottish Council for Civil Liberties, to which SMG is affiliated. The whole work was greatly assisted by a donation from an SMG member of £100. Without this vital cash, SMG would not have been able to get beyond the “talking shop” stage.

The moves began in May 1971 when I (the SMG Chairman) successfully guided through an SMG Motion to the SCCL Annual General Meeting, calling on SCCL to take a firm stand on remaining social and legal discrimination against homosexuals in Scotland. This motion was on similar lines to that adopted by the National Union of Students (Scottish Region) in March 1971. A much expanded version is before the NUS Margate Conference, November 1972, proposed by the University of Reading.

In December 1971, the SMG Annual General Meeting adopted Councillor Ian Christie’s motion which instructed the Executive Committee (a) to consult with the SCCL upon the introduction of parliamentary legislation to repeal the 1885 Act as far as it applies to Scotland in order to legalise homosexual acts between consenting adults, and (b) to conduct an energetic campaign to enrol public opinion in Scotland in favour of such law reform.

We got off to a brisk start in January when the SMG pamphlet “The Case For Homosexual Law Reform in Scotland” was circulated to all 71 MPs who represented a Scottish constituency, and to a fair cross-section of Members of the House of Lords who had spoken out in favour of law reform in the 1960’s. The pamphlet was accompanied by a covering letter signed by Peter Wellington, the then Chairman of SCCL. The response was disappointing. Those MPs who even bothered to reply said they’d oppose Law Reform, or said that they were “sympathetic” but didn’t think it was an urgent issue. Liverpool CHE got much the same response when they wrote to all MPs in their area in May 1972. Disappointed as we were, we followed up the letters with an insistent lobbying campaign in the Edinburgh Area. The results of our conversations were quite encouraging (for the first time MPs were face-to-face with homosexuals, and it wasn’t so easy to be evasive), and we gradually realised that our best chances of success lay in the introduction of a Bill in the House of Lords.

Meanwhile (June 1972) we had completed our analysis of the (English) 1967 Act. A summary of this appeared in GN3 (July 1972). The analysis procedure was carried out over a series of committee meetings. We sought the views of SMG members through SMG NEWS, and wrote to several people with a knowledge of Scots law. We also began to write to the major religious and social institutions calling on them to inform SMG of their attitudes towards homosexual law reform, and to support the SMG campaign. So far, the Society of Friends in Scotland (Quakers) has expressed clear support for the SMG proposals.

This was the grimmest period of our work. The task was difficult and often distasteful. The existing law is couched in highly pejorative and emotive terms. Reluctantly we realised that we couldn’t hope to “clean up” all the phrases. The idea of a sexual “offence” is retained in our final proposals, as is the distinction between “sodomy” (buggery in England and Wales) and other types of sexual “offences”. Our legalisation proposals are fixed at 18 absolutely, with strong defence safeguards for 16 and 17-year-olds. No less than 5 Acts (3 exclusively relating to Scotland) are repealed in part or amended, and this explains why we felt it necessary to promote a “Scotland only” Bill — we really doubt whether an English Act could successfully take into account the fundamentally different aspects of Scots law. We have sent a copy of the Bill to Gay News. The Bill will be formally published on 2nd December 1972, and copies can be obtained from Mike Coulson, 9 Moray Place, Edinburgh, 3 at a cost of 30p each, post free.

Although we have had one definite response from a Member of the House of Lords, who has agreed “as a last resort” to introduce our Bill, we are still in the process of sounding out other Members’ views. Our lobbying campaign continues (up-to-date details from our Annual Report for 1972, issued 1st December), and the Crown Agent has congratulated us on the draughtsmanship of the proposed Bill. His main criterion is whether or not reform proposals are enforceable, and our proposals are “thoroughly enforceable”.

We have come under much pressure — even attack — from many homosexuals, some “figureheads”, for pushing ahead with Scottish proposals. When people haven’t been questioning us on the need for law reform (why bother, we’re okay thanks, brigade) others have criticised us for being too timid. Most people seemed to forget that the Law Reform Committee was (and is) working within the terms of the SCCL and SMG Annual Meeting instructions. Within these terms, we maintain, we have made good and solid progress towards Homosexual Law Reform for Scotland.

Ian Dunn

ED: The editorial in GN11 was written deliberately with the hope that we would receive such a response as above. To date we have received no replies from Campaign for Homosexual Equality or Gay Liberation Front.

We do though, consider it a great pity that SMG have settled for eighteen as being the consenting age for male homosexuals, for as we said in our editorial – ‘The age (of consent) should and must be sixteen, as it is with girls – for to settle for anything else would be an admission on our part that homosexuality is something different and strange.’

The Other Love

Continued from front page

19720914-06This book, like Mr. Montgomery Hyde’s books about Wilde, is really a plea for tolerance from the rest of society towards a group of people who really need no more help from society than for it to realise that we are human beings with a great capacity for love and happiness which is so often stifled by fear; their fear, and its result in us. This study deals with the repression throughout history of this social group through ignorance, stupidity and fear. Because of the Puritan strain in our society they try to make us feel guilty, even now, about the freedom to love. Bernard Shaw said of Oscar Wilde that at the time of his trials he pleaded ‘not guilty’ to the ‘offences’ of which he was accused because he did not feel ‘guilty.’

19720914-07The historical survey covers a range from Saxon times virtually to the present day but deals unfortunately with men only. Apparently women are more difficult to obtain information about. The three really important events were the changes of the law; that of Henry VIII’s time when in 1533 he made ‘the detestable and abominable Vice of Buggery committed with mankind or beast’ a felony and so punishable by death and forfeit of property. This law continued in force until 1861 when the abolition of the death penalty for ‘offences against the person’, was commuted to penal servitude for life or any term not less than ten years at the discretion of the court. This, plus the additional clause in the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1885, was in force until its repeal in 1967.

The Criminal Law Amendment Act was really a mistake. It was originally concerned with the protection of young girls against juvenile prostitution and white slavery, its principal aim being to raise the ‘age of consent’ from thirteen years of age to sixteen. It was during the committee stage, ‘taken late at night on August 6th, 1885’, that the amendment clause was inserted by Henry Labouchere, a Liberal-Radical M.P.

ANY MALE PERSON WHO, IN PUBLIC OR PRIVATE, COMMITS, OR IS A PARTY TO THE COMMISSION OF, OR PROCURES OR ATTEMPTS TO PROCURE THE COMMISSION BY ANY MALE PERSON OF, ANY ACT OF GROSS INDECENCY WITH ANOTHER MALE PERSON, SHALL BE GUILTY OF A MISDEMEANOUR, AND BEING CONVICTED THEREOF, SHALL BE LIABLE, AT THE DISCRETION OF THE COURT, TO BE IMPRISONED FOR ANY TERM NOT EXCEEDING ONE YEAR WITH OR WITHOUT HARD LABOUR.

The Attorney-General, Sir Henry James, amended the original penalty to two years as a maximum penalty and as soon as the Royal Assent had been given there began a spate of correspondence in the newspapers; both legal and lay,… a learned Recorder dubbed it ‘The Blackmailer’s Charter’, and an eminent Q.C. prophesying that ‘juries would refuse to convict where the alleged acts were in private and not visible to any member of the public’.

‘On the other hand, those interested in the welfare of young girls welcomed the act so warmly (and indeed it was an excellent Act apart from section II), and it was so clearly impossible to do anything except let the law take its course, that after a few weeks the clamour died down and the public interest became centred upon some more savoury topic.’

So wrote Sir Travers Humphreys in 1948, one of the junior counsel during the trials of Oscar Wilde.

The new act was used extensively during the 82 years of its life, but apart from the Wilde trials which set several legal precedents and were until 1948 surrounded by an aura of mystery to all but the collector of rare books or privately printed editions, the period which I find the most intriguing is that of the early fifties, which some of us will remember slightly, but whose intrigues and scandals meant very little more than salacious newspaper reading.

It was in March 1951 that the drive against homosexuals became really intensified. This was due to the defection of the two British diplomats, Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean, to the Soviet Union. Maclean had been serving in a senior position in the British Embassy in Washington and is believed to have been blackmailed by Burgess and ‘Kim’ Philby – both Burgess and Maclean being homosexual, into handing over ‘top-secret’ information, to which he had access from American sources, to the Russians.

The Americans, apparently very concerned over Maclean’s sudden disappearance with Burgess, which had resulted from a ‘tip-off’ from Philby. They approached the British to weed out any of the known homosexuals from Government Service as bad security risks, as was being done also in the States. Macarthyism was ‘in full-swing’ over there too. The British campaign reached its height in the latter part of ‘53 and early ‘54, getting a good boost from the New Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir John Nott-Bower, who swore he would ‘rip the cover off all London’s filth spots’, according to one report. In October 1953 it was reported the Home Office had instructed the police to institute ‘a new drive against male vice.’

The new Home Secretary, Sir David Maxwell Fyfe, (later Lord Kilmuir), had this to say in December 1953;

Homosexuals in general, are exhibitionists and pjoselytizers, (i.e. makers of converts!) and a danger to others, especially the young. So long as I hold the office of Home Secretary, I shall give no countenance to the view that they should not be prevented from being such a danger.

In the months that followed, many young men were trapped by the use of AGENTS PROVACATEURS. Peter Wildeblood in his excellent book, Against the Law, quoted here, witnessed two in action:

One night, when I had been working late at the office, I was walking along the Brompton Road towards my flat. Outside a closed public-house in a side turning I noticed two men loitering. A man aged about seventy, with white hair, walked past them and went into a lavatory at the side of the public-house. He was followed in by the younger of the two men. Almost immediately there was a sound of scuffling and shouting, and the older of the two men whom I had first noticed also ran into the lavatory. He and his companion dragged the old man out, each holding him by an arm. He was struggling and crying.

My first thought was that they must be local ‘roughs’ who were trying to rob the old man, so I went towards them and shouted at them to let him go, or I would call the police. The younger one said: ‘We are Police Officers.’ A woman who had joined us on the street corner asked what the old man had done, and was told that he had been ‘making a nuisance of himself’, He had now begun to struggle violently, and the two detectives pushed him up against the railings of the Cancer Hospital, outside which we were standing. His head became wedged between two iron spikes, and he started to scream. The detectives asked if one of us would ring up Chelsea Police Station and ask for a van to be sent: ‘Just tell them we’re at the top of Dovehouse Street, they’ll know what It’s about!’

The woman said: ‘You can do your own dirty work, damn you.’ It seemed to me, however, that the old man might be seriously injured if he continued to struggle, so I went into a telephone box a few yards away, telephoned the police station and spoke to the duty sergeant. He was evidently expecting a message, because the van arrived almost immediately. The old man, who by this time was lying on the pavement in a pool of blood, was picked up and taken away …

Of all the many cases which came before the courts, none caused as much stir as that involving Lord Montagu of Beaulieu. Others involved were his cousin, Michael Pitt-Rivers, a film director, Kenneth Hume and Peter Wildeblood, at that time diplomatic correspondent for the Daily Mail.

Lord Montagu and Kenneth Hume appeared before Winchester Assizes on December 1953, accused of indecently assaulting two boy scouts (employed at his stately home as guides) who had gone with him and Hume to look for a camera he’d left at his beachhut. While there they had a bathe. He reported the loss of his camera to the police and while they were questioning the two boys they elicited an accusation of indecent assault from the two men.

While ‘enquiries were going on’ and rumours were making social life difficult for him, and particularly his sister, about to get married, Montagu went away to France and then to America. As soon as he heard there was a warrant out for his arrest he flew home, surrendering himself and his passport to the authorities. This proved to be an unwise move.

The prosecution sought to prove that instead of flying direct from Paris to New York on September 25th, as he swore in his evidence he had done, he had returned to England for a brief visit of a couple of days and had flown to America from England on September 25th. In support of this the prosecution pointed to an entry in his passport which seemed to indicate that he had been stamped out of Boulogne by the French Passport authorities on September 23rd. Montagu vigorously denied this, saying that he had not been in Boulogne for several years, and on examining the passport the judge pronounced that the date had been altered, the figure ‘5’ having been apparently changed from ‘4’.

Montagu was acquitted on the serious charge of committing an unnatural offence but on the lesser charge of indecent assault the jury disagreed and the Director of Public Prosecutions decided that he should be tried again.

Three weeks later the arrests of Pitt-Rivers and Wildeblood took place, the police searching their premises without warrants. They were charged with several specific indecency charges and of ‘conspiring’ with Montagu to commit them. This was highly prejudicial to Montagu’s pending second trial. This practice had been severely condemned by the Court of Criminal Appeal in 1948, when Mr. Justice Humphreys had remarked:

– if the law of criminal conspiracy is to be invoked, then each count of the indictment should be framed so as to enable the jury to put their fingers on the specific point of the conspiracy as to which they are satisfied that the particular defendant is proved to have been implicated and to convict him of that offence only. It is an essential feature of the criminal law that the accused person should be able to tell from the indictment the precise nature of the charge or charges against him so as to be in a position to put forward his defence and to direct his evidence to meet them.

Wildeblood and Pitt-Rivers were specifically accused of offences with two R.A.F. men, Edward McNally and John Reynolds, again at the beach-hut near Beaulieu, and at the Pitt-Rivers estate in Dorset. Wildeblood, his friend McNally and Reynolds, used the hut for a holiday in 1952 and on their First night, Montagu gave a party to welcome them

It was a small party, consisting of Montagu and some friends he had brought down who were at a house party at Beaulieu. It was this that the Press built up into a Bacchanalian orgy while reporting the trial.

Montagu, Pitt-Rivers and Wildeblood were tried together at Winchester Assizes in March 1954. The charges in respect of the boy scouts .. were not included in the indictment, since neither Pitt-Rivers not Wildeblood had nay-thing to do with these .. The principal witnesses against the defendants were the two airmen, both of whom had been thoroughly intimidated:

It also came out that Reynolds was interrogated by the police for a total of eighteen hours and that McNally had been persuaded to ‘confess’ on being told that Reynolds had already ‘squealed’ … ‘The fact that neither of them was charged with any offence’, Wildeblood afterwards wrote, ‘proves, I think, conclusively that the Crown in this case was not even concerned with the administration of the law as it stood. It was simply out to put Montagu behind bars.’

It did, Pitt-Rivers and Wildeblood got 18 months, Montagu 12.

Some good came out of this, however. One thing was Wildebloods own book which I have been forced to read again after reviewing this book; a very powerful evication of the period: the other was that the Sunday Times devoted its leading article in the next issue after the conviction at Winchester entitled Law and Hypocrisy. This was followed by an equally powerful article in the New Statesman on The Police and the Montagu Case. These were not before the Church had put in a plea for the reform of the law, even when the charges were still pending at Winchester – a blow for the police. This had come from The Church of England Council for Moral Welfare.

The Government eventually bowed to the storm of criticism. Just a month after the Montagu trial the Home Secretary, along with the Secretary of State for Scotland, agreed to the appointment of a Departmental Committee to examine and report on the law of homosexual offences and the ‘parallel’ problem of the law relating to prostitution!

Questions in Parliament seem to have given Conservative peers virtual heart attacks. In the House of Lords, Earl Winterton, then in his seventies, after apologising for bringing forward ‘this nauseating subject’ castigated the Church of England for publishing the report of its Moral Welfare Council and praised the police for their recent actions, barking back to Wilde: ‘It may well be said that the Oscar Wilde case was a moral purge, and it may be that certain recent cases will have the same effect. If this be so, the whispering campaign against the police, which is going on very strongly, and sometimes in circles which ought to know better, should cease..’

The struggle was carried on by a number of people who met incredible opposition on all sides. In their speeches at the time they said things which are now liable to strike us quite amusing or amaze us with their naivete. But the most important thing to remember is that they were fighting for our future dignity. Even so I still can’t help smiling when I read phrases like:

‘These people are self-eliminating. They do not breed. They do very little harm if left to themselves .. ’ (‘makes us sound like rabbits.’) On the other hand we had remarks like this from Field-Marshall Montgomery of Alamein:

To condone unnatural offences in male persons over 21, or indeed in male persons of any age, seems to me to be utterly wrong .. – My main reason is that a weakening of the law will strike a blow at all those devoted people who are working to improve the moral fibre of the youth of this country. And heaven knows, it wants improving! Lord Kilmuir spoke of ‘the proselytisation which goes out from sodomitic societies and buggery clubs which everyone knows extsts,’ while Goddard expressed the conviction that if Arran’s Bill were passed it would be ‘a charter for these bugger’s clubs, ‘and they would consequently be able to spring up all over the place.’

Apparently no evidence could be discovered to prove the two distinguished lawyer’s statements about the existence of the bugger’s clubs, and when invited by the Homosexual Law Reform Society, ‘declined or were unable to do so.

The Departmental Committee, known as the Wolfenden Committee eventually produced its report in 1957 and although the Conservative Government of the time showed some reluctance to implement its suggestions, a prominent Labour front-bencher, Lord Pakenham (now Earl of Longford), spoke in favour in the House of Lords.

Things were still moving too slowly and so in 1958 the Homosexual Law Reform Society was formed with many famous supporters. Th They sent a letter to The Times in March, with about thirty well known signatures. More letters followed. However the Government still continued to take its time. Eventually, over a year after its publication after some prodding at the beginning of the session, the Government put down a motion in the Commons ‘that this House takes note of the Report,’ an ineffective and inconclusive motion expressly designed to avoid a vote.

In 1960 the Society held a meeting at The Caxton Hall in Westminster. Shortly before it, Mr. Butler, The Home Secretary received a deputation from the Society and informed its members that, since:

‘the public had not shown its feelings in the matter,’ it would be premature for the Government to introduce legislation.

Matters were further complicated by another spate of ‘spy cases’; the Vassall affair in 1962 seemed to be the culmination of them which had included Gordon Lonsdale and the Profumo affair. At the end of this period Mr. Macmillan resigned. He was succeeded by his Foreign Secretary, Sir Alec Douglas Home; He saw ‘no reason to think there had been a significant change in the balance of opinion since that time (the motion was heavily defeated in a debate in 1960), and I know that the Home Secretary, who has been keeping the matter under view, agrees with me.’

Further interruptions included the General Election when Labour was returned with a majority of five. We all know that it was not until July 27th 1967 that the Sexual Offences Act received the Royal Assent.

In moving that ‘this Bill do now pass’, Lord Arran said:

When we first debated these affairs – and how long ago it seems! – I said that your Lordships had it in your power to remove fear from the hearts of men. This you have done. It was this House that gave the lead. Because of the Bill now to be enacted, perhaps a million human beings will be able to live in greater peace. I find this an awesome and marvellous thing … My Lords, Mr. Wilde was right: the road has been long and the martyrdoms many, monstrous and bloody. Today, please God! sees the end of that road.

Mr. Montgomery Hyde’s book is a good account of the years leading up to the passing of the Act in 1967 and the years immediately following but I would now like to see a sequel dealing with our hopes for the future and the way these achieved. Many older homosexuals think that now the law has changed they do not need any thing further. They are free to live together as they choose, so long as they are over 21 etc., and can do so now without fear of summary arrest and search without warrant. But it is very important that the element who are dedicated to general liberation should agitate for those who are to come later. There is certainly nothing to be complacent about. We are bound to be unpopular. Oscar Wilde, writing quite some time before his trial had this to say:

Agitators are a set of interfering, meddling people, who come down to some perfectly contented class of the community and sow the seeds of discontent among them. That is why agitators are so absolutely necessary. Without them, in our incomplete state, there would be no advance towards civilisation.

This book is about an advance towards civilisation. We have come a long way since the | days of the capital offence but we have a long way still to go.

Obsolete or Not

02-197206XX 3The Law Relating To Homosexual Acts In Scotland by Robert Thomson, Secretary, Scottish Council for Civil Liberties.

Most people in other parts of Britain do not realise that Scotland has a separate legal structure with many fundamental differences to that in England and Wales. Some Acts of Parliament do not apply to Scotland and many items of government policy need separate legislation: for example, going through Parliament at present is the Housing Finance (Scotland) Bill which seeks to increase local authority rents in Scotland as does the Housing Finance Bill in England and Wales. The chief law officer in Scotland is the Lord Advocate – at present Norman Wylie, QC, MP. He combines the duties of the Lord Chancellor, Attorney-General and the Director of Public Prosecutions in England and Wales. Through his Department, the Crown Office in Edinburgh, he controls prosecutions throughout Scotland by a system of Procurator Fiscals. The Fiscals are similar to District Attorneys in the United States.

“I asked the Crown Office about this and I was informed that efforts have been made to find when the last prosecution of two consenting adult males took place but nobody was able to remember a single one… and the fact is that they have never done so in living memory so far as I can ascertain.”

So said the Earl of Dundee on 13 June 1967 during a debate on the Sexual Offences Bill. His point was the main argument for not including Scotland in the provisions of the Sexual Offences Act 1967.

However. as late as 1970 when the Crown Office was approached directly on this matter, it transpired that their policy was much more illiberal than supposed. The c Crown Agent stated that those laws which related exclusively to male homosexual behaviour were enforced in so far as it was possible to do so but that since most homosexual acts were conducted in private and because of the Scots Law requirement of corroboration, prosecutions seldom, if ever, arose.

It would seem, therefore. that some duplicity and hypocrisy was practiced at the time the Sexual Offences Bill was going through Parliament. If some item of legislation is not being enforced, surely that is an argument for removing it from the Statute Book rather than for retaining it. Obsolete legislation bring the whole legal system into disrepute.

This type of hypocrisy exemplifies establishment attitudes in Scotland. Sex is not a “nice” subject. “Decent” people don’t discuss it or even admit it exists. This form of repression permeates Scotland, for example, regarding the licencing laws, places of entertainment and Sunday observance. The reasons for this altitude are complex but the historical role of the Church of Scotland is an important factor.

The facts, then, are that for practical purposes the law is not enforced though there would seem to have been some prosecutions of men for acts with younger men or boys, convictions are usually gained through voluntary confessions. However there are many convictions for acts of public indecency in toilets to which homosexuals are driven because of the lack of social meeting places.

The law (Section II Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885) remaining on the Statute Book encourages social discrimination of homosexuals, makes them feel insecure and open to blackmail and fosters prejudice. Scotland is a relatively small country with few large cities; because of the prevailing attitude, described above, any person admitting or being “found out” as gay, faces loss of job and social ostracism. This includes women who, though they don’t face let penalties, are in many ways worse off, certainly in the availability of solid meeting places.

In 1971 the following motion was passed at the Annual General Meeting of the Scottish Council for Civil Liberties:

“This AGM notes the continuing social and legal inequalities of the homosexual in Scotland and recommends to the Executive Committee and the Parliamentary Civil Liberties Group to press for sound legal reforms for an early removal of remaining discrimination.”

Together with the Scottish Minorities Group which is affiliated to the SCCL, it is campaigning for law reform. The Scottish Minorities Group was set up to look after the interests of sexual minorities in Scotland.

A memorandum prepared by SMG was sent to all Scottish MPs. In a covering letter the SCCL stated:

“We adopt as our basic principle the view that sexual activity of any description between consenting parties should not be subject to legal constraints, with exceptions only in the case of provisions necessary to protect the young and immature and to prevent public indecency. We also believe that social discrimination against minorities such as homosexuals is unjustifiable but it can only be eliminated when the law ceases to discriminate.”

Copies of the memorandum were also sent to social workers and other organisations. The press were informed but published little.

The response of Scottish MPs to the memorandum was disappointing. We received replies from a number of MPs who said they would actively oppose any attempt to change the law. The majority of other replies said “Yes, I agree with you but let sleeping dogs lie”. Those MPs who offered to help all thought it was hot the best time to try and introduce reform. Our most helpful replies were from several members of the House of Lords.

Frankly, it seems unlikely that we will get any constructive action from the present Parliament since the “hang ‘em and fog ‘em” brigade seem to be in the ascendancy. However, one of our lawyers has prepared a draft Bill which we hope to introduce into the House of Lords sometime this year to test Parliamentary and public reaction. In addition, members of the Law Reform Committee of SMG have been personally lobbying MPs and this line of attack seems very useful.

The SCCL has been involved mainly in the campaign for legal equality, SMG has been doing a first-class job in contacting and speaking to social workers, churches, university organisations, local councillors MPs and school teachers. This kind of face-to-face contact will do more than any law case, to dispel the public image of the homosexual as some effeminate sex pervert and lead to the realisation that they an ordinary decent citizens attracted to their own sex.

The SCCL

The SCCL is the Scottish arm of the National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL)

All the SCCL’s work is done by voluntary helpers; solicitors and advocates, trade unionists and academics, social workers and housewives. There is a Scottish sub-Committee of the Parliamentary Civil Liberties Group.

Members of the NCCL living in Scotland an automatically members of the SCCL. Membership is administered by the NCCL. The SCCL receives half the subscription fees of Scottish members.


SCOTTISH MINORITIES GROUP.

MEETINGS;
EDINBURGH, from 7.45pm to 9.00pm in the basement of 23 George Square. Check with Mike Coulson at 031-225 4395. Women’s Group at 7.30pm. Saturdays from 9.30pm to 12.30pm coffee/food/dance at the same address.

GLASGOW, meetings every Tuesday at 8.00pm an 8 Dunham Street, Glasgow C4. Women’s Group at 184 Swinton Road, at 8.00pm. Third Friday of every month at 214 Clyde Street (library of community house) invited speakers, from 8pm.

DUNDEE, every Friday at Dundee University Chaplaincy. Social. Details from 041-771 7600.

ABERDEEN, Weekly social meetings, Details from 041-771 7600.

Gay Life in Scotland, or Och, Yerra Naffie Big Jessie, Jimmah!

01-197205XX 4Being freely translated: “Oh! You’re
a screaming queen, my dear.”

There are fundamental differences between Scotland and the rest of the U.K. which reflect back on the individual life-styles of men and women living in Scotland. Some of these differences can be understood using the simple analysis that life outside London is barbarious for all “sub-cultures” and that it is self~evident that life in the “provinces” must be an eternally lonely and frustrating existence.

It’s not really as simple as that, however, and the above analysis makes the fundamental error of assuming that life for homosexuals in and around London must be always very pleasant with everyone else having to cope with a less pleasant existence. In fact activists living in a smaller community where any action at the local level is rewarded by quick attention and positive response. Whether that response is creative or destructive will depend a lot on the calibre of the local gay activists. It is easier, too, for the local gay community to get a corporate feeling of togetherness – you can’t just drop out of sight very easily, and the pleasant spin-off from this is that people care a bit more about your personal happiness.

But, again, I just want to underline that the picture is complex, and that there are a thousand graduations between city sizes and community spirit. Before I bow to discipline and keep to the subject in hand, I’d like to suggest that gay commentators in other regions could help provide an unrivalled service by writing about their own part of the U.K. especially if they’ve travelled around and put thing into perspective: we readers of “Gay News” may wonder just what it is that makes life so different for a Geordie a Mancunian, a gay Derry Boy (surely Northern Ireland must be the most socially and legally deprived area of Britain). There must be rich seams of unrecognised local slang, unrecorded local life-styles – what a PhD awaits the lucky researcher! Or the updater of Montgomery Hyde’s now sadly uncontemporary survey of homosexuality in Britain!

OUTRAGES ON DECENCY: Any male person who, in public or in private, commits, or is a party to the commission of, or procures or attempts to procure the commission by any male person of, any all of gross indecency with another male person, shall be liable to imprisonment for two years. (S.11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act l885). Got it? Let me spell it out: two guys in private, perhaps also lovers, can’t fuck, suck, or toss (or anything else remotely sexual) without committing a criminal offence. Age is no protection. And that is the law under statute in Scotland. At common law we have the crime of SODOMY: Sodomy is the crime of unnatural connection between human males. Both parties, if consenting, are guilty. As with rape, proof of penetration is an indispensable requirement. It’s a messy, antediluvian situation, and neatly reflects the unenlightened. near perverted attitudes towards sex which has clouded the minds of our moral law writers. The state of the law is one major barrier towards a well-balanced, well-informed society.

Yet the state of the law in Scotland hasn’t prevented the flourishing of an outward-going gay community (at least in Edinburgh), nor has the law prevented the growth of a service group (the Scottish Minorities Group) dedicated to the promotion of the interests of the homosexual community. The police have very few statutory powers of arrest in Scotland (unlike England) and the power to arrest is based on the common law. The most prominent offences linked with homosexual behaviour aret
dedicated to the promotion of the interests of the homosexual community. The police have very few statutory powers of arrest in Scotland (unlike England) and the power to arrest is based on the common law. The most prominent offences linked with homosexual behaviour are the common law offences of “shameless indecency” and “breach of the peace”, the latter of which is used quite widely in Scotland. The police are not involved in the prosecution. Public prosecution is conducted by the Burgh Prosecutor (police courts) or the Procurator Fiscal or Advocate Deputy (Sheriff or High Courts). The policy of successive Lord Advocates has been not to prosecute for “in private” activity, and so homosexuals in Scotland enjoy, for all practical legal purposes, the same freedoms as heterosexuals. Scots law of evidence affords an extra protection to the citizen. However, the laws remain unreformed – an insult to every right-thinking person. A friend of mine, extolling the “golden age” of the l8th Century and deploring the tawdryness of contemporary 20th century life, conveniently forgot the fact that today we are confined by legal and moral restraints brought about in response to specific events in the 19th Century. We too easily forget that the “age of Consent” up to 1875 was 12. In that year it was raised to 13, and then to 16 in 1885. The idea that two men in their teens taking part in homosexual actions cannot be “consenting” is laughable, yet the Sexual Offences Act 1967 says just that. Thank goodness this ugly piece of modern legislation does NOT apply to Scotland. It perpetuates the idea of “gross indecency” between men, a statutory offence invented in 1885, and in an emotional and malicious way confines young people to criminal proceedings, when they may properly need care, advice or empathy. What we need in Britain are sound rational laws. So long as we tinker and “reform” present laws we gay people will perpetuate socially and legally the concept of second-class citizenship.

Scotland’s population is about 5¼ million, just half the number of people who live within an hours train journey from London. The area is vast, but because of the wild and exciting land-forms, the people are unevenly distributed and confined in the main to the Forth-Clyde valleys and on or near the East Coast. There’s a very distinctive flavour to each city. Glasgow and Edinburgh, a gentle hourly drive apart, have unmistakeable identities. Glasgow is a city of superlatives: best Victorian city in Europe, highest high rise, greatest programme of urban motorways, brilliant parklands… yet… and yet bad for gays. It’s a sort of combination of heavy industrial working-class past combined with a near dearth of intimate and varied meeting-places. The Close Theatre is a stunning exclamation mark in the heart of old Gorbals. Edinburgh: “east-windy and west-endy” about sums it up but if you’ve been to the August International Festival (or any other time) you will know that this lovely city is also a haven for Scotland’s gay community. SMG are operating a successful Saturday night coffee-food-and-dance club, and the Edinburgh Branch of the Group is now seriously engaged in the buying of central premises, inside which we can create our permanent home. Edinburgh’s size (less than ½ million) seems just right: big enough for variety, small enough for identity. Gay people relocating should give serious thought to settling in Edinburgh.

The best way to approach Dundee is at night driving northwards over the Tay Road Bridge (or take the evening train from Edinburgh!). Unfortunately, visual impact does not match up to social enjoyment, for this is a very stolid town which partly derives from a large female work force to support the Jute industry. It is a “tight” city, not at all liberated. I have never been to Aberdeen, but my friends sing the beauties of its crisp-clean granite, and worry their hearts about the social disruption (and destruction) attendant upon the North Sea oil bonanza. Inverness I know is a cheerful and smaller version of Edinburgh in many ways. Some very sensitive restoration work coupled with the delightful modern development just slightly spoiled by some loutish work in the late fifties and early 1960’s. Could be very pleasant for gays once SMG Inverness begins to grow.

I’ll wind off now! Hopefully this highly personal and patchy picture will give some idea of what Scotland is like as a place to stay.

  • References: (yes, there were some)
  • THE FRIEND April 28th 1972 (Marjorie Jones’ article)
  • SCOTTISH INTERNATIONAL March 1972 (author’s article)
  • CIVIL LIBERTY The NCCL Guide (Penguin Books, London, 1972)

 

SCOTTISH MINORITIES GROUP.

MEETINGS:

  • EDINBURGH, from 7.45pm to 9.00pm in the basement of 23 George Square. Check with Mike Coulson at 031-225 4395. Women’s Group at 7.30pm. Saturdays from 9.30pm to 12.30pm coffee/food/dance at the same address.
  • GLASGOW, meetings every Tuesday at 8.00pm at 8 Dunearn Street, Glasgow C4. Women’s Group at 184 Swinton Road, at 8.00pm. Third Friday of every month at 214 Clyde Street (library of community house) invited speakers, from 8pm.
  • DUNDEE, every Friday at Dundee University Chaplaincy, Social. Details from 041-771 7600
  • ABERDEEN, Weekly social meetings, Details from 041-772 7600