A small working group of Scottish Borders Council (SBC) officials are considering whether to allow the rainbow flag flown above its buildings, reported the Border Telegraph.
SBC has repeatedly denied requests to fly the rainbow flag over their Newton Headquarters, stating in several instances that it consider the LGBT community as a “special interest group” rather than a “minority group” and therefore won’t fly the flag.
This policy has been insisted on, despite numerous Scottish councils doing so, including the neighbouring Dumfries and Galloway Council during the Commonwealth Games, and even the Scottish government.
SBC flew the rainbow flag when they helped launch the Scottish Borders LGBT Equality Forum in 2006, but have refused to do so ever since.
Susan Hart of the Scottish Borders LGBT Equality Forum told KaleidoScot that it is probable that SBC came up with the following policy after 2006 stating that only the Saltire, Commonwealth, Union-Jack, EU, Armed Forces, and visiting nations, can be flown.
“This discrimination is probably a result of anti-LGBTI complaints, but we can’t be certain,” told a source, who prefers to remain unnamed, of the Borders LGBTI community to KaliedoScot.
SBC has finally agreed to consider flying other flags when Conservative councillor and Better Together campaigner Simon Mountford from Kelso, said he’d like to see the Union-Jack being flown more often as sign of a “period of reconciliation.”
SBC Councillor Graham Garvie responded to Mountford, stating: “Because of the number of approaches I’ve had over a period of time regarding our flag flying protocol, a few months ago I asked the chief executive [Tracey Logan] to review this policy. The review is being carried out by an officer working group which will report back to the council when it has completed its deliberations.”
SBC Councillor John Greenwell told KaleidoScot: “As the equalities Champion at Scottish Borders Council I have been at the fore front trying to get the Flag protocol changed to a more flexible protocol, at present the protocol has a political feel about it , my hope is that with the setting up of an Officer Working Group to review the protocol I may be able to have some input into the group to help all minority groups such as the LGBT community in the borders gain some recognition of support from the Council by allowing them to fly their flag on occasions such national awareness days etc.”
The review has been welcomed by Alistair Lings, chairperson of the Borders Bisexual, Lesbian and Gay Group.
“Notwithstanding national flags, the current policy is, in my view, deeply flawed,” said Lings.
“The LGBT rainbow flag was raised in 2006 when the forum was launched, but on several occasions since, requests for our flag to be flown have been rejected by the council because we are considered a ‘special interest group’ and the protocol states such requests should generally be refused.
“I would certainly like an acknowledgement in the new policy that gay people are an important minority group – not a special interest group – and that the rainbow flag should at least be flown to mark the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia in May.
“It would also send out a positive signal if the flag could be raised when the first same sex marriages take place in Scotland later this year.
Lings said the issue was important as Borders police has recently reported a surge in homophobic and transphobic hate crimes, up from 9 cases in 2012 to 19 cases in 2013.
He also called SBC to consider not flying the Commonwealth flag any more since over 80% of its member states criminalises same-sex acts.