Nicola Sturgeon fears Scotland is ‘regressing’ as gay couples are too ‘nervous’ to hold hands

Nicola Sturgeon looks to the left

Nicola Sturgeon has said she fears Scotland is “regressing” as she is often told gay couples are too scared to hold hands in public.

The first minister said that as much as the nation has made key leaps in LGBTQ+ rights recently – with more to come – the fight certainly isn’t over.

Speaking at the Edinburgh International Book Festival on Monday (15 August) at Central Hall, Sturgeon interviewed author Louise Wesh about her upcoming book, The Second Cut, the sequel to her 2002 novel The Cutting Room.

The book follows a gay auctioneer Rilke at a time when the Keep the Clause campaign was in full swing in 2000. Campaigners called on the government to keep Section 28, which banned the “promotion of homosexuality” in schools.

Sturgeon said: “The Cutting Room has a backdrop of the repeal of Section 28, which was a horrible time in politics and public discourse. The Second Cut opens with a gay marriage.”

“These books go from Section 28, a time in our recent history, when I guess gay couples would not have felt comfortable holding hands in public, to the present day, with equal marriage, and everybody feeling that things have changed completely, and yet have they changed that much?” Sturgeon added.

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“I am horrified often right now when I hear gay couples say that they are nervous again about public displays of affection. These battles are never definitely won. Do you think progress is continuing to go forward or are we regressing a little bit?”

Welsh replied: “I think we have to keep on going. We have to keep on fighting.

“We are sitting here in Edinburgh, at a fantastic international festival. We are aware that in 35 countries in the Commonwealth it is still illegal to be gay.

“We look at ourselves and we look elsewhere. We look across the Atlantic to America, where laws are beginning to be threatened to be rescinded in terms of equal marriage. We have to always be vigilant.”

According to police data obtained by VICE World News, homophobic hate crimes in Scotland rose from 1,010 in 2014-15 to 1,853 in 2021-22.

Scotland was not alone. In England, crimes fuelled by a hatred for someone’s sexual orientation have doubled in the last five years. Transphobic hate crimes have tripled.

Though the figures paint a troubling image of Britain, on the same day that Nicola Sturgeon spoke with Welsh, Scotland became the first country in the world to give free period products – trans and non-binary folk included.

And more protections for LGBTQ+ people may be on the way. Holyrood is drafting an inclusive conversion therapy ban and is pushing ahead with reforming the Gender Recognition Act.

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