Scouts celebrate LGBT History Month

Scouts celebrate LGBT History Month

14 February 2017

As Scouts Scotland celebrates LGBT History Month, Development Adviser Ross Donald-Hewitt, looks back at a pivotal moment when the Scout Association enshrined the rights of LGBT young people and adult volunteers.

February 2017 marks the twentieth anniversary of the Scout Association’s first Equal Opportunities Policy. The policy stated that no young person or adult volunteer should be treated differently based on their sexual orientation. 

This was a courageous step for a youth organization during a time when social attitudes were quite different to today. For example 20 years ago, there was still a ban on gay, lesbian or bisexual people serving in the military, same-sex couples were not yet able to foster or adopt children. This was also long before civil partnerships and equal marriage rights.

Back in 1997, Section 28 (known as Section 2A in Scottish Law) of the Local Government Act 1988 was still in place. The Section stated that a local authority "shall not promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality".  At the time, many teachers were afraid of discussing gay issues with their pupils for fear of losing their jobs. Section 2A was only repealed in Scotland, three years after the Scout Association first published its Equal Opportunities Policy enshrining the rights of LGBT young people and adult volunteers. It was then a further three years before Section 28 was repealed in the rest of the UK in 2003.

It is easy to forget how forward thinking the Scout Association was at the time.  It came after months of discussions and meetings and took the courage of many Scout volunteers to stand up for people who were different to themselves.  At the time it was seen as a controversial move by some sections of the national press, but the Scout Association stood firmly by its decision and by its values.

In 2009, the Scout Association officially attended Pride in London for the first time.  Since then, Scouts have attended Pride parades and festivals across the UK and here in Scotland to celebrate the diversity of our communities.

I would like to thank the volunteers who helped create the Equal Opportunities Policy back in 1997 for their courage and their commitment.  I also want to thank all the young people and adult volunteers who continue to ensure Scouting better reflects our local communities.

I am proud to say that the adventure of Scouting is open to young people and adult volunteers from all backgrounds. 

As we continue to work with our LGBT members within Scouting, I am also looking forward to working with the wider LGBT community and building partnerships with LGBT charities and organisations over the next few years.

Read our Equal Opportunities Policy

Join us at Pride

If you are already in Scouting, and you want to join us at Pride Edinburgh on Saturday 17 June 2017, get in touch.

lgbti@scouts.scot