Scottish minister backs fight against rural homophobia

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The Minister for Communities and Sport in Scotland has said the country’s SNP government is committed to fighting prejudice and discrimination against LGBT people.

Stewart Maxwell MSP made his comments on a visit to Dumfries LGBT Centre last month.

Dumfries and Galloway is the only rural region in Scotland that “visibly tackles issues like homophobia and exclusion,” say centre staff.

It is one of three LGBT Centres in Scotland, and the region recently celebrated its first Pride event, one of only two happening in Scotland in 2008.

Following his visit Mr Maxwell said:

“The Scottish Government is taking action to tackle prejudice and discrimination against LGBT people and to support communities right across Scotland.

“We recently announced funding of £1.7 million to the national LGBT organisations which will deliver a whole range of projects across the country.

“I was very impressed by what I saw on my visit to Dumfries.

“I believe that a successful Scotland is civilised, fair and inclusive and provides equal opportunity and choice for all its people.

“That is the Scotland that I will feel proud to live in.”

Grace Cardozo, Director of Programmes, LGBT Youth Scotland, said:

“Many people are unaware of the discrimination LGBT people have to deal with, therefore don’t understand what the issues are.

“We need to ensure that the whole community, especially those who are in positions of power, understand the extent of discrimination, and how we can all work together to find solutions.”

There is some controversy among the gay community in Scotland about the SNP’s acceptance of financial backing from homophobes.

In May 2007 the elections to the Scottish Parliament resulted in the nationalist party winning the largest number of seats. It formed a minority government.

In March that year it was announced that Brian Souter, a self-made millionaire and devout Christian, donated £500,000 to the Scottish National Party.

In 2000 Mr Souter gave over a million pounds to a campaign in Scotland to uphold Section 28, which banned the promotion of homosexuality in schools.

Mr Souter is a member of the Church of the Nazarene, a Methodist denomination.

His Stagecoach Group bus and train operating company is the second-largest in the UK with 16% of the bus market and 11% of the rail market.

In government the SNP has supported a new homophobic hate crimes bill but it has been delayed.

Scottish studies have revealed that violence against the gay community is reaching a devastating level.

According to one such report, 36 percent of LGBT people have experienced abuse or violence in the last year, compared to 2.5% of the general population.