New Directions

EDINBURGH: The 1972 SMG Annual Report, just out, shows how the Group has developed over the past year.

The Group has nucleated into Regional Areas, and the AGM on December 2nd adopted a new Constitution which recognises development. Power has been handed over to the local gay groups. The right to raise money and to advertise locally has now been written into the SMG Constitution. The National Executive will only step in when the local group wilfully goes against the 4 Aims of SMG. Even these 4 aims have been recast to take account of past experience and the changing climate in Scotland. Their wording is “tougher and terser”

SMG’s most successful enterprise is the Saturday night Club at the COBWEB in George Square in Edinburgh (unfortunately closed over the holiday period, in case you’re thinking of visiting Edinburgh), and each Area group is now looking for similar premises, preferably under direct SMG-control and on a seven-days-a-week basis.

The Annual Report points to the success of the Annual Conference in August, and the boom in the gay publications field – referring particularly to GAY NEWS.

For the price (and the small effort) of a large stamped self-addressed envelope, the National Secretary will send you a copy of the Report. So, for the low-down on how to run a successful gay organisation, write to the Secretary, SMG, 214 Clyde Street, Glasgow, G1 4JZ.

Edging Out

EDINBURGH: Scotland’s gays have taken two more steps out of the shadows of illegality. And both centre on this city’s university.

The first was a renewed campaign for gay rights launched at new students at the university when the Scottish Minorities Group handed out leaflets at the university’s Fresher’s Fair. There were two leaflets given away, one aimed at gays, the other at non-gays.

At the fresher’s fair the student societies were asked to sign a petition calling upon the Government to “enact legislation abolishing the present legal sanctions against homosexuals in Scotland.”

Among those who refused to sign were the Trampoline Society, the Socialist Action Group and the editor of Student, the student’s newspaper.

The chairman of the city’s SMG branch, Michael Coulson, told Gay News that he was pleased with the reception the leafleting had met. At Edinburgh University GaySoc may be formed.

Michael Coulson, who works in the university’s Department of Sanskrit is one of the two gays running a teach-in on homosexuality at Edinburgh University in March.

Dr Coulson and the student, who to the horror of the Glasgow Herald “both profess to be practising homosexuals”, told the paper that he hoped that a large proportion of the audience at the officially-sponsored teach-in will be heterosexuals.

He said that of the estimated 500 gay students at Edinburgh only a smallish number are in contact with SMG.

SMG has already been informing the students here of what it’s like to be gay, It held an open students meeting, where the university’s consultant psychiatrist talked about his work with particular reference to homosexuality.

He Wasn’t Kidding

19720914-07BOB STURGESS is a member of London CHE, and also attends many GLF meetings. He is a journalist, and apart from writing and speaking on homophile and allied subjects, Bob contributes articles on the theatre scene to various publications. Three of his own plays have been professionally produced (“In a modest way”) in London.

His interest in Councillor Kidd stems from the fiasco last August, 1971, when Kidd attacked homosexuals and got a lot of publicity as a result. This year, Kidd’s letter to GAY NEWS (Issue 5) prompted this interview, written when Bob was in Scotland for the Edinburgh Festival.

Anatomy of a closed mind
by Bob Sturgess
Edinburgh, September 3.

Pointing through the window of Edinburgh’s Festival Club to Calton Hill (a popular gay venue). Councillor Kidd of Edinburgh Corporation asked me point blank:

You know what I’d do to the homosexuals who pollute our lovely countryside with their presence?

No, I replied, although I had a pretty shrewd idea. He is an imaginative man.

I’d put the Edinburgh Corporation’s police dogs on half rations for a week — make them right vicious — and then you know what I’d do?

No? Gourmet-like, he was savouring the thought with his tongue.

I’d set them loose and let them sink their fangs into all those nancy boys up there; make right mincemeat out of them they would.

He sat back to enjoy the effect of his words but, seeing no reaction on my face, added for good measure:

I said as much in the Council chamber. You can quote me.

I will. Outwardly a kindly man. Councillor Kidd had agreed, at some personal inconvenience, to meet me in person at the Festival Club.

I’m going away tomorrow, he had said over the phone. Must it be a personal interview?

It would be better, I answered.

It’s not a disease you know, it’s — filth.

Would six o’clock be convenient?

Very guid!

How will I recognise you?

I’ll be carrying a stick.

It was with some trepidation that I had entered the Club on the dot of six, to avoid at least gratuitous retribution, and it was a relief to see that, having hurt his leg in a fall, the Councillor was using his stick supportively, not offensively. We sat down in the bar. At the adjoining table sat a brace of purse-lipped Glaswegian parents with their pre-pubescent daughter, who was evincing an unhealthy interest in our conversation, for the Councillor was not of a mind to pull his verbal punches.

Born like it? You think some might be born like it? No, no. It’s a weakness in their bloody minds; they’re easily led – to filth.

You think they all choose to be that way?

I don’t think it, I know it.

The learned Councillor took an ostentatious sip of his ginger beer:

They’re like all those alcoholics and drug addicts who never do an honest day’s work in their lives — they contribute nothing to the life of the Nation.

Do you think journalists contribute anything to the life of the nation?

Most definitely.

Not all journalists are heterosexuals.

His rheumy eyes looked engagingly incredulous.

Really? I didna know that. That surprises me.

He said this very gently, naively, with such child-like simplicity that one could not doubt his sincerity.

They should all be bloody well burnt. Hitler may have had his faults, but you can say this for him — he knew how to deal with those — Arabs.

I thought Goering was a roaring homosexual.

GOERING WAS A ROARING WHAT?

Councillor Kidds’ hearing was anything but acute, and our high-decibel conversation had widened Glasgow’s eyeballs to the size of farmhouse saucers.

A ROARING HOMOSEXUAL.

The little girl gave a frisson of excitement.

Really? That surprises me.

Are you against adult homosexuals engaging in private sex?

Most definitely.

On the assumption that most male and female homosexuals are not that way from choice, wouldn’t you in effect be condemning them to lifelong abstinence?

Most certainly I would. And if they must have sexual outlet, they can always get it for five shillings from a woman of the streets.

But we’re assuming that, being homosexual, they wouldn’t want to go with the opposite sex.

It’s what I said; they’re weak-minded.

Many male homosexuals and lesbians are isolated and unhappy —

They canna be unhappy enough if that’s the life they lead.

— so would you at least allow them social contact with each other?

Most certainly not. It spreads, you see. We have to stop it spreading to the schools — we have to protect our children.

But don’t you think that enlightened sex education would alleviate many people’s unhappines in later life?

We have millions and millions of guid youth. We must protect them from filth.

Scotland’s Mary Whitehouse cast an avuncular eye around the thickly-carpeted room and thought of past battles.

I’ve done a lot to clean up Edinburgh. Everyone knows my views.

I’m sure they do.

If I was running this club, I wouldn’t allow them in; they flock in here in droves, you know, at Festival times. In droves. You can tell them a mile away, stinking with dirty cheap scent — the dirty brutes.

Would you set up a sex-testing panel at the door?

A young waitress caught the Councillor’s roaming eye.

They’d be far better off falling in love with these pretty girl waitresses —

I’m sure it’s what many gay sisters would love to do, but how could they if you didn’t let them in?

… the first step to a guid clean Christian life.

Are you a Christian?

Yes.

Do you detect any contradiction between your religion and your attitude to people?

I dunna take your meaning.

How, for instance, do you think Christ would have treated homosexuals?

Were there any in those days?

It’s a safe presumption.

But I’m talking about today; our country’s going downhill fast.

Wouldn’t Christ have …

I’d put them to real hard work on the roads. Or in the Army. To make men of them. National Service will come back when we’re in the Common Market. I’d put them to marching all day. In my six years in the army I never once came across a homosexual. You’re too tired for sex in the barrack room. You just want to get into bed.

Many homosexuals did a lot of marching in the last war, but it didn’t make them heterosexuals. They simply came back tired homosexuals.

I’d give them a pill and clear them out o’ the road.

Is that what Christ would have done?

They didn’t have a pill in those days.

Don’t you think Christ would have dealt with homosexuals as he dealt with other human beings — with charity and compassion?

I can’t answer that one.

Councillor Kidd, you occupy a responsible public position —

Aye, I’m a family man, and I’ve been 25 years in public service.

Has you aim been to bring happiness to people?

Aye. The great thing about serving in local government is that you learn to give, not take.

Really? Do you have Parliamentary aspirations?

Aye, if God spares me. I’d like to be an MP. The trouble is, every party is agin me. I speak too straight for them. But many people do share my views. I got into local government with the largest majority (3,500) in Scotland for any party.

As a senior public figure do you feel you should be as informed as possible about the subjects on which you pronounce?

It depends.

I see Montgomery Hyde’s ‘The Other Love’ has just been reprinted. It presents a factual survey of (mainly male) homosexuality in Britain and is helping towards greater understanding –

I would never read such rubbish. I wouldn’t I allow the book in my house.

Is it just possible that your views on this subject might be wrong?

Councillor Kidd entered into a thoughtful pause, as if examining a new proposition.

My opinion is not wrong — it’s the opinion of millions.

One gathers that “it was the opinion of millions” that Britain should not rearm against Germany in the late thirties – and that opinion proved almost catastrophically wrong.

That’s as may be. I was surprised, I must confess, that the Churches supported the 1967 Act.

Might they not have been convinced by all the evidence?

What evidence?

The sort of evidence you label as ‘rubbish’.

The room was filling up pleasantly with yoooth and Councillor Kidd had finished his ginger beer. Although Glasgow had left, there were more farm saucers around us than ever, and it was getting time to meet friends and go out on the Fringe. We got up by mutual consent and the mild-mannered Councillor vouchsafed me one last confidence: I’m writing my autobiography, he said, lowering his voice. The things I have to tell — you wouldn’t credit it.

I wouldna, I said.

There, he murmured. I’ve given you plenty of ammunition.

To be directed against whom? I asked.

We shook hands.

If I get into Parliament, I’ll bloody well trounce the London Homosexuals as well.

You could tell he wasn’t Kidding.

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