The deaths of 49 people, brutally killed at the Pulse gay club on Sunday in what was the worst mass shooting is US history, shocked Scotland. Last night’s vigil in Edinburgh follows similar events held across Scotland in recent days – in Glasgow, Dumfries, Dundee and Thurso.
In spite of the weather, people showed their solidarity with victims’ families and the LGBTI community in Orlando – wearing rainbow flags, carrying placards with messages of love and support, and even dressing up (some as sad “Pierrot” type clowns).
Choirs, including Loud and Proud and the Edinburgh Gay Men’s Choir, performed at the vigil and – as in Glasgow – the names of each of the victims were read out.
Edinburgh Castle was also illuminated in the rainbow colours to show solidarity with the victims of the Orlando shooting.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson and Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale all addressed the assembled crowd from a small lectern bearing the rainbow flag.
The First Minister said: “I can’t tell you how important it is to me to be with you here this evening. The last few days have been horrific and heartbreaking beyond words but it has also been inspiring. All across the world we have watched people come together in solidarity. That is the comfort I hope you, and the LGBTI community across the world, take from these expressions of solidarity. We stand here tonight united, proudly in defiance of hate and with a very clear message – love is love.
“Tonight I want to say three things – firstly, to express my sympathy with all of those who were affected by the horror. Those lives weren’t lost, they were taken by someone motivated by hate.
“Secondly, I want to call what happened in Orlando for what it was – a homophobic hate crime, targeting people simply because of who they choose to love.
“Thirdly, I stand shoulder to shoulder with our LGBTI community now and always.
“I am really proud of the the progress we’ve made in Scotland in the last few years…the proudest moment of my career was when we passed the equal marriage act…but there is no room for complacency. Until we live in a world in which no young person feels hatred, discrimination, prejudice or fear because of their sexuality or gender identity we still have work to do. I pledge to you tonight we will continue to do that work until we live in a Scotland that is truly equal.”
“We stand in Edinburgh in a place where we feel safe and stand in solidarity with people around the world.
“We will become stronger because we have stood here tonight, because we have shown those people that would conduct hate upon our community they they will not win because love wins, love always win.”
Ms Dugdale added that they were gathered in solidarity not only with the LGBTI community in Orlando but all those around the world. She said that gay clubs should be refuges and safe places, adding that “love will always defeat violence”.
23-year-old Tobias Wishart, from Leith, also gave an emotional speech on behalf of a friend who themselves had lost someone close to them in the tragic shooting.
Tim Hopkins, director of the Equality Network, also addressed the crowd. He said: “This kind of attack – terrible though it is – is not going to stop the LGBT community working together in solidarity, calling for equal rights and continuing to be visible.”
Watch the speech by Nicola Sturgeon at the Edinburgh Vigil: