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.’

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.

Spike Folds

GLASGOW: Oppression of gays in Scotland tightened last week when the country’s radical paper was closed by the Post Office.

The Black Box News Agency, which published Spike, faced a £400 telephone bill, which it still can’t pay.

Black Box had acted as a selling agency for Gay News in Scotland, as well as publishing its own newpaper.

Spike’s folding means that, subscription copies apart, less than 100 copies of Gay News are now sold in Scotland.

Spike was an alternative newspaper that covered most areas of political and sexual liberation.

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.

The Beat Goes On

19720914-04Snippet from Scotland

Peeping police pursuing people peeing came across two men in the throes of gross indecency. Despite the fact that one turned out to be a vicar they were both fined £10 at Aberdeen Sheriff Court on August 16. The vicar’s lawyer described it as a very sad case. “Mr Mc—— cares deeply for his wife and church. He is a man of conscience.”

The beat goes on.

Scots Bits

Councillor Kidd reads Gay News!

05-197208xx-3The most surprising thing about Councillor Kidd’s letter is that he actually read the newspaper.

Councillor Kidd is well known in Edinburgh and derided by all political factions. He is a fool and an imposter of the first order. His preoccupation with homosexuals borders on the sick. As I have said before (as Chairman of S.M.G.), he seems to have an unusual knowledge of the goings-on of a certain sector of the homosexual community in Edinburgh. Kidd has commented several times on the “sick fairies of Calton Hill” and he’s publicly threatened to set the police dogs on gay men who frequent the Hill.

councillor-kiddWho is Councillor Kidd? He slipped into Edinburgh in 1947, sat as a Progressive on the Council until the late 1950’s, and is now an Independent Councillor for Newington.

He is lazy and does not attend for the full duration of Council Meetings (but does eat up the free lunches!) He provides an effective voice for the reactionary Right Wing of Edinburgh’s Town Council. He can safely be ignored: there are many fine men -Councillors Christie, Hoy, Smith, Laurie and Ross for example – who are openly gay or who support S.M.G.’s local fight for gay rights.

Ian Dunn

Premises Progress

At a specially convened Policy Meeting on 29 May SMG EDINBURGH took the crucial decision to look for premises for the Edinburgh Branch. Expenditure of up to £15,000 was authorised, and quick cash backing for up to one third of this amount was received from two or three of the Members at that meeting. The meeting warmly welcomed John Compass’ offer to examine likely premises with a view to purchase. His export knowledge will be invaluable, as will be the advice of several other people whose views have been sought.

We are looking for premises which will include a large hall (theatre/dance), a bar, a library/ quiet room and space for offices. If we are fortunate there could be a house-manager’s flat and space for diverse group meetings.

SMG Women

Progress continues in both Edinburgh and Glasgow with the occasional recruit also enrolling from outside the two main centres.

One happy feature is that the women appear to be becoming less “introverted” and are taking an ever increasing part in the general meetings and activities. One related problem which has arisen: a hospitalised non-member, but lesbian, requires accommodation for a period of one month in order to secure discharge from hospital. This could be with either a host or a hostess, and in any area. For full details apply to SMG NEWS. Helping others inevitably puts ourselves to some inconvenience. But if the welfare aspect of SMG is to be a practical reality rather than a lip-service deal we have to be prepared to do just this. So . . . offers of help, please.

Reprinted, with love, from the Scottish Minorities ‘SMG News’.

Sexual Offences Report

REPORT ON SEXUAL OFFENCES ACT 1967 of the SMG LAW REFORM SUB-COMMITTEE

03-197207XX-04We hold as basic to our philosophy the principle that the State has no cause to interfere with or punish sexual behaviour or expression which does not involve assault, interference with children, or an affront to decency causing annoyance or nuisance to the public.

The 1967 Act falls short of this principle in a number of respects. We list as the most outstanding anomalies the following:

AGE OF CONSENT (Clause 1 (1)). 21 is now even more difficult to justify than when the act was passed, in view of the fact that the legal age of majority has been lowered to 18 by the Family Reform Act 1969

‘IN PRIVATE’ The definition in Clause 1 (2) is more restrictive than that envisaged by the Wolfenden Committee, and is undesirable both because of its discriminatory nature and the handle it gives to blackmailers.

EXCLUSION OF MEMBERS of the Armed Services and the Merchant Navy. (Clause 1(5) and Clause 2). This goes beyond the Wolfenden proposals and extends to off-duty circumstances which could not conceivably affect discipline and which could not constitute an offence if committed by a civilian.

EXCLUSION OF SCOTLAND AND NORTHERN IRELAND (Clause 11 (5)). Under the differing sexual conduct laws in different parts of the United Kingdom, adult male homosexuals in Scotland and Northern Ireland have fewer rights than those in England and Wales. At the same time it should be mentioned that at least one penalty under the 1967 Act is harsher than its equivalent under the 1956 Sexual Offences Act. namely that prescribed in Clause 3(2), where the maximum penalty is increased from 2 to 5 years.

MAXIMUM PENALTIES as laid down need revision and rationalization, as do those for sexual offences generally. They are in every case too severe. The primary consideration in assessing the gravity of an offence should be not the precise nature of the act committed but the degree of compulsion or intimidation involved.

PROCURING a homosexual act (even though not for purposes of gain) which is not itself an offence remains punishable under the 1967 Act (Clause 4).

CONSPIRACY is not dealt with in the Act. In the light of recent charges of “conspiracy to corrupt public morals” it would appear that invitations to commit lawful homosexual acts may be an offence in circumstances where similar invitations to commit heterosexual acts are not. The recent House of Lords narrow interpretation of the 1967 Act (14 June 1972) confirms this.

BYE-LAW OFFENCES vary widely and are outside the scope of the Act.

Michael Coulson
Convener, Law Reform Sub-Committee.


S.M.G. August Conference.

The Scottish Minorities Group is holding its Conference on Homosexuality in the Heriot-Watt University Students’ Centre, 30 Grindlay Street, Edinburgh, on Saturday 5th August 1972, from 10am to 6pm. (Entrance Fee £1 per person.)


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 041-771 7600

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

Trouble Shared

01-197205XX 5We’ll do what we can to help and advise if you share this trouble of yours with us in this regular column.

ALONE IN GLASGOW

It’s only recently that I’ve realised I’m as attracted to certain women as I am to men. This came as a big surprise to me and I’m sure it would be more of a horrible shock to my friends; which is exactly the trouble. I know no-one who feels the same as me and I have very little access to meeting them. In fact, I sometimes feel I’m the only lesbian in Glasgow! Glasgow seems to be a more repressed area than most. It’s a huge city but one which prefers to ignore part of its population and keep them in isolation and loneliness. I mean, where can you meet people? I see many women in the street to whom I’m attracted, and I’m sure they feel the same, but there’s this horrible stigma about being homosexual or bisexual or anything which deviates from the norm. It must be really bad as it took me 19 years to even admit it to myself. I believe there’s a great number of people, both male and female who consider themselves totally heterosexual but in fact have a nagging doubt at the back of their minds about this. Men have been conditioned into worshipping females with big boobs and bums and women have just been conditioned into worshipping men in all pimply, hairy and un-deodorised forms! I just can’t understand why people should be outlawed because they are attracted to a member of the same sex. I think it might have something to do with the way men are expected to be extremely manly and women to be feminine. The fact that we are all just people has been forgotten. What I’m trying to say is, I think of myself as a person first and then a woman second and if I’m attracted to a girl it’s because of her personality and then her sex.

I think homosexuals will be more and more isolated as time goes on. You only have to look at the way “Straight” People act physically towards each other – there is no form of physical communication at all – only between members of the opposite sex. This has come about quite recently because 20-30 years ago it was usual and normal to see women go walking down the street arm in arm without half the street turning round for a second look. People are being pressurised more and none into being heterosexual.

In mediaeval times it was usual and highly commendable for young boys to have knights as lovers. In fact it was considered a disgrace if they didn’t!

How times have changed!

I think the only way to bridge this terrible gap of lonely people is for a magazine like Gay News, produced sincerely for homosexual people, to organise a system like box numbers (at the very least) to help people communicate more easily.

I personally hope this will take place in the very near future.

It is a ‘terrible gap’ – and we exist to help bridge it. Although we were, and still are, concerned about the whole business of running box number ads, not least because they might technically be illegal, Gay News does have a small ads column (q.v.) and box numbers. For the sake of the future, though, gay people cannot go on hiding away from the stigma put upon us; we must become known, as people who happen to be gay. No fear ever goes away until it is faced, and nothing is won from this society without some measure of defiance. But the power of the oppression is strong, stronger in our minds, I believe, than in fact, but still with great power. And so in deference to her wishes we have not printed the name of our lonely sister. We’ll pass on any letters we get to her and put her in touch with gay organisations in Scotland.